The legalization of Cannabis, otherwise known as Marijuana or Pot, has been in the talks for years. As of October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act will finally allow for the legal consumption of marijuana in Canada. A year from that date, consumers can expect to see edible cannabis products and concentrates available for legal purchase.
It is important to note that although the Cannabis Act will make cannabis consumption legal, there are several rules and regulations in place to ensure it is consumed responsibly. Therefore it is important to understand the rules in order to use marijuana without risking an arrest and a criminal record.
If you are caught selling marijuana without a license, you could be charged up to $5,000 or up to 14 years in prison. Similarly, if you are caught with a quantity greater than 30 grams, you could face charges of possession.
Violation to any of the regulations in place can result in a criminal record.
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Cannabis and Criminality in Canada
According to Justice Canada, more than half of all drug offences reported by police are cannabis related. In 2013, approximately 23,000 people were convicted for cannabis related charges. While charges and sentences may vary, all convictions result in a criminal record. Unfortunately, a criminal record can have drastic, lifelong consequences. It can affect your ability to get a job and to travel. This is especially true if travelling to the United-States. They require you to have a waiver if a criminal record is associated to your name.
Stern penalties are set in place to ensure that the consumption and distribution of marijuana remain in the legal realm. For example, a single house hold can only harvest a maximum of 4 marijuana plants. Any more than that and you will face criminal charges. Also, the maximum amount of marijuana one can possess on him is 30g. Failing to adhere to any of the laws in the Cannabis Act will result in criminal charges.
Sentencing for cannabis related charges
- Possession over the limit: tickets for small amounts, up to 5 years in jail.
- Illegal distribution for sale: tickets for small amounts, up to 14 years in jail.
- Giving or selling cannabis to a person under 18: up to 14 years in jail.
Smoking in public places will also be strictly regulated. Conflicting information exists on the internet about whether or not smoking in public places will be legal or not. Some sources suggest it will be banned in all public places, while others suggest it will be permitted in smoking areas. Laws and regulations also vary heavily from province to province, and municipality to municipality. Inform yourself before lighting up!
If you are a minor, purchasing cannabis with someone else’s ID or a fake ID can lead to hundreds of dollars in fines and criminal charges of impersonation or fraud.
Businesses that do not have a license to sell pot can be fined up to $1-million dollars.
While the legalization of cannabis has led to a decrease in cannabis related charges, cannabis-impaired driving has unfortunately been on the rise.
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Cannabis-impaired driving in Canada
The term DUI (driving under the influence) is not only reserved for alcohol related impairment. It also applies to impairment caused by drugs, both legal or illegal. This also includes prescription drugs!
At no point should you ever operate a motor vehicle (car, boat, ATV, etc.) while under the effects of marijuana. Remember, cannabis consumption affects people in different ways; the effects may be longer lasting for some than for others. The way in which you consume marijuana also has an effect on the duration of the high experienced. Ingesting cannabis via eatables and concentrates produces a longer lasting effect than simply inhaling it.
If a police officer suspects that you may be operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, he can subject you to a Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) and/or an evaluation to determine if there are indeed any drugs in your system. This may include using oral fluid drug screeners and taking clinical indicators (blood pressure, oral body temperature, pupil dilation tests).
Failure to comply to these tests will result in criminal charges under section 253 (a) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Additional Provincial/Territorial laws and penalties may also be imposed upon you.
Bill C-46 related to impaired-driving laws was passed on June 21st 2018. This comprehensive reform to the Criminal Code creates three new offences for having a prohibited concentration of drugs in the blood within two hours of driving. Charges for having THC in your system can range from $1,000 to life in-prison.
For more information on these charges: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/sidl-rlcfa/ .
Going to Court for a Cannabis-Impaired Charge in Canada
In our experience, a guilty verdict is attributed to nearly all DUI cases in Canada. One of the things that makes it such a difficult charge to fight is that – by definition – you were impaired and therefore any testimony you provide immediately lacks credibility. This makes sense. A sober police officer performing his or her job while administering a breathalyzer test has a lot more credibility than a person charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. If you are charged for a DUI in Canada, you will almost certainly be found guilty.
Sentencing for an impaired driving charge
- For a first offence, a $1000 fine and a 12-month driving prohibition,
- For a second offence, 30 days of jail and a 24-month driving prohibition, and
- For a third or subsequent offence, 120 days of jail and a 36-month driving prohibition.
Charges may vary between provinces, but the above is a good general guideline. The most common element is that a DUI conviction in Canada will certainly result in 1-year license suspension following your first conviction as well as a fine.
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Does a DUI show up on a background check in Canada?
Whenever you are convicted of a crime in Canada the record will show up during any background check. Even if you are not found are guilty, records of the arrest can easily be viewed by employers and other interested parties.
If you have a DUI conviction – or even if you have only been arrested for a DUI but not found guilty – you should apply to have your record removed.
If you were not convicted following a DUI arrest, you should apply for a purge and file destruction.
If you were convicted for your arrest, you need to apply for a pardon.
Getting a pardon or file destruction for cannabis-impaired driving
If you think you will want to eventually obtain a pardon for your DUI charge, the first thing you should do after being convicted is pay your fine. For the purpose of your pardon, the sentence being considered will almost invariably be the fine you receive provided there was no jail time involved.
For whatever reason, the license suspension is not considered a part of the sentence during the pardon application. So, it is conceivable that you could have your criminal record sealed but never bother getting your license back.
If you decide to apply for a pardon for a DUI charge, you will want to make sure you have no traffic violations of any kind during the eligibility waiting periods as they can be used against you during the review process. Provided you meet the eligibility criteria and you satisfy the good conduct clause you will be able to seal your criminal record and remove that DUI charge once and for all.
Most driving offences – like speeding or making an illegal turn – are not criminal and, therefore, will not go on your criminal record. But impaired driving can be considered sufficiently serious to warrant a criminal conviction.
If you’re convicted
Most impaired driving charges are dealt with summarily by the courts and the usual sentence is a fine and a suspended license. You will be able to apply for a pardon five years after you’ve paid your fine because the license suspension is not considered part of your sentence for the purposes of a pardon. Pay your fines as soon as possible to avoid delays getting your record cleared.
It’s possible for a DUI to lead to an indictment that comes with a heavier sentence but this is normally reserved for repeat offenders. It would also be common in cases where the offence was especially serious because it caused injury or involved further criminal activity like trying to evade the police.
Travelling with Cannabis outside and within Canada
Although cannabis will be legal in Canada, it is strictly prohibited to cross any border while in possession of it. This prohibition applies even though you may be authorized to consume marijuana for medical purposes. It also applies if you are travelling to or from a country or state that has decriminalized or legalized pot. Crossing the border with cannabis can result in criminal charges of possession or trafficking.
Simply admitting having anything to do with marijuana at the U.S. border could have you banned for life. Recently, three Canadians were banned for life for trying to cross the border to do a sales demonstration of a marijuana bud trimming machine. For more on this story, visit: https://globalnews.ca/news/4140898/legal-pot-data-banned-us-border/
Your legal pot buying could also land you in hot water at the U.S. border. According to a report by Global News, American border guards could easily gain access to online data showing your online cannabis purchases. Credit Card giants, Visa, Mastercard, and BMO, all store their information in the United-States. This allows American Border Guards to easily gain access to the data and subject them to American Laws and Regulations. Based on this data, a guard could deem your consumption to be excessive and could ban you for life from crossing the border. Being deemed inadmissible and banned for life means you will need a waiver to travel across the U.S. border. Waivers must be renewed every year or five-years.
When asked about your marijuana consumption, lawyers suggest refusing to answer the question. Although this refusal will most probably have you turned away, it is a better option than lying or admitting your consumption, which could have lasting consequences.
When travelling within Canada, it is important to remember that provincial regulations may vary between provinces and territories. For example, the legal age to buy cannabis is 19 years of age everywhere in Canada except Quebec and Alberta. To be safe, consume the cannabis in the same province that you purchased it.
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Cannabis and Amnesty
While the Trudeau government is considering amnesty for simple possession charges, nothing has been done about it. Individuals who have been convicted of marijuana related charges will still have these criminal records after the legalization in October. The legalization of marijuana does not retroactively forgive those with criminal records related to marijuana!