On October 17, 2018 Canada legalized and regulated the sale, possession, and use of cannabis. The law is constantly evolving to meet the complex demands of an ever-changing society. When that law changes, especially a core piece of law determining what is and is not criminal, it can affect many aspects of people’s lives. In the case of Ontario and Canada’s new cannabis laws: How much cannabis can you have? What can and can’t you do with it? How does cannabis law relate to driving? Are you at risk of running afoul of the law? What about cannabis and the workplace?
Let’s take a look!
WHAT IS THE LAW?
The Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) was passed in the Canadian House of Commons in November 2017 along with Bill C-46 An Act To Amend The Criminal Code. Ontario’s provincial laws further regulating cannabis are set out in the Ontario Cannabis Act. As of October 17, 2018, it became legal within Ontario and across Canada to possess and use cannabis within the legal definitions of the new laws. This ended a legal prohibition that has been in place since 1923.
The intent of the law in decriminalizing cannabis is to:
- protect the health of young persons by restricting their access to cannabis;
- protect young persons and others from inducements to use cannabis;
- provide for the licit production of cannabis to reduce illicit activities in relation to cannabis;
- deter illicit activities in relation to cannabis through appropriate sanctions and enforcement measures;
- reduce the burden on the criminal justice system in relation to cannabis;
- provide access to a quality-controlled supply of cannabis; and
- enhance public awareness of the health risks associated with cannabis use.
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM AGE?
The minimum age to buy, use, possess, or grow cannabis is 19 years of age. This age limit in Ontario is the same age limit restriction already in place for tobacco and alcohol.
HOW MUCH CANNABIS CAN YOU HAVE?
You are allowed to possess up to 30g of dried cannabis.
WHERE CAN I BUY CANNABIS IN ONTARIO?
Currently in Ontario, recreational cannabis can only be purchased through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). Pending changes to Ontario law will open up the legal definition of who can sell cannabis from “the Ontario cannabis retailer” to “an authorized cannabis retailer.”
ARE YOU ALLOWED TO GROW CANNABIS?
Yes. Each household is allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants. Note that this is four plants per household, not four plants per person. Cannabis can also be grown for personal medical use.
CAN I SMOKE CANNABIS IN THE WORKPLACE?
No. Smoking recreational cannabis in the workplace is prohibited. Employers and supervisors will need to be aware of the laws surrounding medical cannabis as well as prevent workplace hazards under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). Employees, like with alcohol, have to ensure that they are fit to safely perform their work and not be a hazard to the workplace under the OHSA.
CAN I HAVE CANNABIS IN MY CAR?
No. The Ontario Cannabis Act (soon to be renamed The Cannabis Control Act) states that, “No person shall drive or have the care or control of a vehicle or boat, whether or not it is in motion, while any cannabis is contained in the vehicle or boat.”
This prohibition does not apply to cannabis that:
- is in its original packaging and has not been opened; or
- is packed in baggage that is fastened closed or is not otherwise readily available to any person in the vehicle or boat.
WHERE CAN YOU SMOKE CANNABIS?
According to the Ontario Government’s Guide on Cannabis Use, cannabis can be used in the following locations (subject to additional restrictions from municipal bylaws, lease agreements, and the policies of employers and property owners):
- Private residences (excluding residences such as retirement homes and long-term care facilities that are also workplaces)
- Outdoor public locations such as sidewalks and parks
- Designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
- Residential vehicles and boats that meet certain criteria such as having permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored
- Scientific research and testing facilities (if the cannabis use is for scientific research and testing purposes)
- Controlled areas in:
- long-term care homes
- certain retirement homes
- residential hospices
- provincially-funded supportive housing
- designated psychiatric facilities or veterans’ facilities
WHERE CAN’T I SMOKE CANNABIS?
It is illegal to smoke or vape cannabis in the following locations:
ILLEGAL INDOOR LOCATIONS
- indoor common areas in condos, apartment buildings and university/college residences
- enclosed public places and enclosed work places
- non-designated guest rooms in hotels, motels and inns
SCHOOLS AND PLACES WHERE CHILDREN GATHER
- at school, on school grounds, and all public areas within 20m of these grounds
- on children’s playgrounds and public areas within 20m of playgrounds
- in child care centres, or where an early years program is provided
- in places where home child care is provided — even if children aren’t present
HOSPITALS, HOSPICES, CARE HOMES, AND OTHER FACILITIES
- within 9m from the entrance or exit of hospitals (public/private), psychiatric facilities, long-term care homes, independent health facilities
- on outdoor grounds of hospitals (public/private) and psychiatric facilities
- in non-controlled areas in long-term care homes, certain retirement homes, provincially-funded supportive housing, designated psychiatric or veterans’ facilities, and residential hospices
PUBLICLY OWNED SPACES
- Such as publicly-owned sport fields (excluding golf courses), nearby spectator areas and public areas within 20m of these areas.
VEHICLES AND BOATS
- Cannabis can not be consumed in any manner in a vehicle or boat that is in motion or is in risk of being put in motion.
SPECIFIC OUTDOOR LOCATIONS
- in restaurants and on bar patios and public areas within 9m of a patio
- on outdoor grounds of specified Ontario government office buildings
- in reserved seating areas at outdoor sports and entertainment locations
- on grounds of community recreational facilities, and public areas within 20m of those grounds
- in sheltered outdoor areas with a roof and more than two walls which the public or employees frequent, or are invited to (e.g. a bus shelter)
WHAT IS THE LAW ABOUT DRIVING AND CANNABIS?
Just like alcohol, it is illegal to have cannabis accessible within a vehicle or to drive while impaired by cannabis. Driving while under the influence of cannabis can result in being charged with Impaired Driving and facing the following penalties:
- an immediate licence suspension
- financial penalties
- possible vehicle impoundment
- possible criminal record
- possible jail time
CANNABIS USE AND YOUNG, NOVICE, OR COMMERCIAL DRIVERS
A driver’s use of cannabis is determined by a federally-approved oral fluid screening device. The following drivers are prohibited from driving with any amount of cannabis in their system:
- you are 21 or under
- have a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence
- the vehicle you are driving requires an A-F driver’s licence or Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR)
- you are driving a road-building machine
WHAT CAN I DO IF I’M CHARGED WITH A CANNABIS OFFENCE?
If you are charged with a cannabis related offence, it is important to immediately seek out information related to your offence and your legal options. Pleading guilty to an offence or making a legal misstep may result in consequences that will impact your life for years to come. A conviction could result in court fines, a record of conviction, loss of licensing, imprisonment, and impact your insurance costs.
If you have been charged by the police, OTD Ticket Defenders Legal Services is here to assist you. We offer a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation to review your case history and details with you. We can be reached via our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869, via text at 226-240-2480, or by email at [email protected]. You can also submit an online request for assistance and one of our staff will contact you to help you.