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Cannabis 101: Part 4 of 5

Ontario’s new Cannabis Laws span both federal and provincial levels of law.  The federal law for Canada is the Cannabis Act and the main provincial law of Ontario is the Cannabis Control Act.  Now that the recreational use of Cannabis is legal across Canada, people may not think twice about buying, selling, or even growing cannabis.  If cannabis has been made legal, then what’s there to worry about?  Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit to worry about legally.  The overarching federal laws and the more local provincial or territorial laws govern every facet of how cannabis can be grown, transported, sold, purchased, or distributed.  These new bodies of law have kept paralegals busy in learning the ins and outs of the relevant laws as well as either setting new case law at court or being aware of the most recent court rulings.  This is generally a lot more in-depth knowledge that the average Ontarian would (or would want to) know about any specific area of law.

In understanding Ontario’s new cannabis laws, we’ve been exploring frequently asked questions that may be asked by defendants or people just curious about how the law has changed and how to ensure that they don’t run afoul of it.  If you have a question that hasn’t been answered, feel free to submit a blog question and we’ll either answer it in a future article or respond to you directly with an answer.  Asking questions can help avoid legal problems!  If you’ve already been charged by the police, then you’re going to need information much quicker.  The best way to do so is to submit an online consultation request and one of our staff will contact you to go through your case history and details with you.  We’ve already gone through quite a few questions and answers about Cannabis law in Ontario, but there’s a lot more to know about!

Let’s take a look!

Do I Need To Give My Personal Information To The Police?  Can They Arrest Me?

If a police officer believes that you have contravened a relevant section of cannabis law, you are required to provide your proper name and address to the police officer upon their request.  If you refuse to do so, or if the police officer believes that the information you provided is false, they may arrest you without need for a warrant.  The authority to do so is provided to the police under Cannabis Control Act section (19)

Arrest without warrant

19 If a police officer finds a person apparently in contravention of this Act or apparently in contravention of a prescribed provision of the regulations and the person refuses to give his or her name and address or the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the name or address given is false, the police officer may arrest the person without warrant.

Are The Police Or Courts Doing Anything To Improve Youth Education?

Yes.  Under the Cannabis Control Act section 20(1), if the police reasonably believe that a person under 19 years of age has illegally purchased, grown, consumed, or distributed cannabis, the police officer may refer the person to an approved youth education or prevention program:

Youth education, prevention program referrals

20 (1) A police officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person who is under 19 years of age has contravened section 10 may refer the person to an approved youth education or prevention program.

This same legal provision is also provided to a prosecutor at court should they decide to stay or withdraw the defendant charge(s).  This provision for the Prosecutor to refer the defendant to an approved youth education or prevention program is provided under the Cannabis Control Act section 20(2):

Same

(2) A prosecutor may, in exercising a power to stay a proceeding under subsection 32 (1) of the Provincial Offences Act or a right to withdraw a charge, refer a person who is charged with a contravention of section 10 of this Act to an approved youth education or prevention program.

Can Anyone Other Than The Police Enforce Cannabis Law?

Yes.  This is an area that you would have to be careful about.  Ontario’s Cannabis Control Act section 21 does provide the ability for the government to specify other persons (or classes of persons) with the powers that can be exercised by the police under this body of law:

Powers of a police officer exercised by others

21 (1) A power that may be exercised under this Act by a police officer, other than a power set out in section 19, may also be exercised by any other person or class of persons designated in writing by the Minister for the purposes of this section. 2018, c. 12, Sched. 1, s. 14.

Same

(2) A designation under subsection (1) is subject to such restrictions as may be specified in the designation, including restrictions respecting the powers that may be exercised or the offences under this Act in respect of which powers may be exercised. 2018, c. 12, Sched. 1, s. 14.

This authority does not include the power of the police to arrest without a warrant provided under the Cannabis Control Act section 19.  The government may also provide specific restrictions limiting authorities granted to specific persons (or classes of persons) through Cannabis Control Act section 21(1).

Who Can Be Found Guilty Of A Cannabis Related Offence?

This might seem like a silly question to ask:  Who can be found guilty of an offence under Ontario’s Cannabis Control Act?  The obvious answer is the person who broke the specific piece of law.  But did you know that a director or officer of a corporation can also be found guilty at court of an offence?  The provision to do so is provided under the Cannabis Control Act section 22:

Offences

22 (1) A person who contravenes any provision of this Act or the regulations, or any order made under this Act, is guilty of an offence.

Same, directors or officers

(2) A director or officer of a corporation who causes, authorizes, permits or participates in an offence under this Act by the corporation is guilty of an offence.

Is There A Period Of Limitation After Which I Can’t Be Charged With A Cannabis Offence?

Yes.  The period of limitation is two years after the day that the offence occurred or was alleged to have occurred under the Cannabis Control Act section 22(3):

Limitation

(3) No proceeding under this section shall be commenced more than two years after the day the offence was, or is alleged to have been, committed.

What Are The Court Penalties Under The Cannabis Control Act In Ontario?

This is where things get a little tricky…  The answer here is, “That depends.”  The simplest penalties are those that are issued under the general penalty section of the Cannabis Control Act section 23(1):

Penalties

General

23 (1) Subject to subsections (2) to (7), on conviction for an offence under this Act,

(a) a corporation is liable to a fine of not more than $250,000; and

(b) an individual is liable to a fine of not more than $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.

A corporation is liable of a court fine of up to $250.000.00 and an individual can get a fine of up to $100,000.00 plus potentially up to one year of imprisonment.  It is important to note that the court fines are also subject to a 25% victim fine surcharge.  This could mean a maximum total-payable fine of $312,500.00 for a corporation and a maximum total-payable fine of up to $125,000.00 for an individual.  Those are enormous potential court fines!

What Are The Court Fines For Illegally Selling Cannabis?  Or If I’m The Landlord?

However, the penalties can vary depending on the nature of the conviction.  The Cannabis Control Act in Ontario specifically sets out penalties for a conviction under section 6 or 13 for individuals as follows under section 23(2)

Penalties: sale, distribution; landlords

(2) An individual who is convicted for contravening section 6 or 13 is liable,

(a) on a first conviction in respect of the section, a fine of not more than $250,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day, or both; and

(b) on a subsequent conviction in respect of the section, a fine of not more than $100,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day, or both.

Section 6 of the Cannabis Control Act has to do with the illegal sale or distribution of cannabis.  Section 13 of the act has to do with landlords knowingly permitting their property to be used for the illegal sale of cannabis.  A first offence has a much higher fine of $250,000.00 plus the victim fine surcharge (vfs) compare to the the $100,000.00 + vfs listed under the general penalty section.  A subsequent conviction (a second or later conviction) can result in a fine of up to $100,000.00 + vfs per day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues to occur.  The potential length of imprisonment is also increased to a maximum of two years less a day.

If a corporation is convicted under these same to sections of law, there is a similar increase in court penalties under section 23(3) compared to those under the general penalty section:

Same, corporation

(3) A corporation that is convicted for contravening section 6 or 13 is liable,

(a) on a first conviction in respect of the section, a fine of at least $25,000 and not more than $1,000,000; and

(b) on a subsequent conviction in respect of the section, a fine of at least $10,000 and not more than $500,000 for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues.

A first offence now comes with a mandatory minimum fine of $25,000.00 + vfs and a maximum fine of $1,000,000.00 + vfs.  For a subsequent offence there is now a minimum fine of $10,000.00 or maximum fine of $500,000.00 per day or part day for which the offence occurs or continues to occur plus the 25% victim fine surcharge.

What Are the Court Penalties For Selling Cannabis To Someone Under The Age of 19?

The penalties again differ if the cannabis was being sold to someone under the age of 19.  Under the Cannabis Control Act section 23(4) the penalties for illegally selling or distributing cannabis to someone under the age of 19 is:

Penalty: sale, distribution to persons under 19

(4) Upon conviction for contravening section 7,

(a) a corporation is liable to a fine of not more than $500,000; and

(b) an individual is liable to a fine of not more than $200,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.

For an individual, the penalty can go as high as $200,000.00 + vfs which is double that of the general penalty.  A corporation upon conviction could receive a fine as high as $500,000.00 + vfs which is again double the amount prescribed under the general penalty section of the act.

What Are The Court Penalties For Someone Under The Age Of 19?

An individual under the age of 19 that is convicted for possessing, using, or growing cannabis under section 10 of the Cannabis Control Act faces significantly lesser court penalties.  The court penalty in such a case is determined by the Cannabis Control Act section 23(5) as follows:

Penalty: possession, consumption, cultivation if under 19

(5) An individual who is convicted for contravening section 10 is liable to a fine of not more than $200, subject to subsection (7).

Compared to the general penalty fine that could go as high as $100,000.00 + vfs and include jail time, an individual under the age of 19 does not face jail time and would have a very minor fine of no more than $200 plus the victim fine surcharge.

Can Someone Under the Age of 19 Avoid A Court Fine For A Cannabis Conviction?

Potentially, yes.  If the person under the age of 19 has been convicted for an offence under the Cannabis Control Act section 10, there is a potential alternative.  Under section 23(7) of the Cannabis Control Act, the court has the option of requiring the individual to participate in an approved youth education or prevention program instead of a court fine or as part of a probation order:

Youth education, prevention program participation

(7) Instead of ordering a penalty under subsection (5), the court that convicts an individual for contravening section 10 may, as a condition in a probation order or otherwise, require the individual’s participation in one or more approved youth education or prevention programs, subject to any conditions or restrictions that the court may specify.

As noted, the court may also apply specific conditions or restrictions as a part of such program participation.

What Should I Do If I’m Charged By The Police?

Hopefully you’re never charged by the police.  However, if you do find yourself having been charged by the police under the Cannabis Control Act the first thing to do is to seek out the information you will need to make informed decisions.  You will need to understand what you’re charged with and what court penalties you’re facing.  You’ll want to know what legal options you have in responding to the court and defending your interests.  These and other questions you’ll want to ask before taking any legal steps that could end up impacting your life for years to come.  The easiest and generally most cost-effect way to defend yourself at court is through a licenced and experienced paralegal.  They know the law and the court process.  They are there to represent you at court to protect your personal interests.

Our friendly staff are here to help you.  We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to go through your case history and details with you.  We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, by email at info@otdlegal.ca, or by text at 226-240-2480.  You can also submit an online consultation request any time of the day or night and one of our staff will contact you during regular business hours to assist you. 

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