Proposed Pot Plan Possesses Plenty of Penalties


Robert Thomas

For the people thinking legalizing recreational cannabis means you can publicly possess large amounts of it, sell it or operate a large grow-op, they might want to think again. Under the Federal government’s proposed recreational cannabis ‘legalization’, criminal penalties will be stiffened and legal public possession limits are established. 

It's all part of the Federal government’s plan to eliminate the black market, collect taxes and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors.

Presently, in second reading before the Senate, the Upper House is patiently debating Bill C-45. As part of that review, the Senate can propose changes to the House of Commons Bill or even reject passing the legislation, partially, or in it's entirety, although that is highly unlikely.

A quick review of the Bill the Red Chamber is debating shows some potentially substantial criminal penalties, especially when it comes to the distribution or sales to minors – under 18. 

Criminal sanctions include up to 14 years imprisonment for such offences as selling cannabis to someone under 18, possessing cannabis for the purpose of selling or having more than four plants in any one dwelling house.

The proposed Cannabis Act contains no near age provision for sales to minors. An 18 year old selling to a 17 year old would not be afforded a legal right to not face an indictable charge.

Sell near or in places frequented by young people, such as a school, may well lead to a tougher sentence.

Despite what some might believe or have heard publicly, possessing more than 30 grams of dried cannabis or the equivalent undried amount could get you criminally charged and potentially jailed for up to six months and a $5000 fine if a summary offense or five years less a day if an indictable offense.

Adults possessing up to 50 grams of dried cannabis in a public place may be ticketed $200 and forfeiture of the cannabis. Young persons 12 – 17 years of age possessing five or more grams will face summary penalties as set out under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

An adult having a young person assist in selling might face up to 14 years in prison.

Transporting cannabis across international borders remains illegal and if it's an indictable offense it carries a maximum 14 years imprisonment.

The proposed legislation also allows individual Provinces to establish their own ages of majority – either equal to or older than Ottawa’s age limit of 18 – plus it also leaves it up to individual provincial and territorial governments on how, if at all, cannabis will be available in their respective jurisdictions.

If a province or a territory decides not to make cannabis available in their jurisdiction the proposed legislation provides it to be purchased from an approved seller and then delivered by Canada Post.

Provincial governments will also be able to decide if people can grow their own. Bill C-45 as presented to the Senate allows individuals to grow up to 4 one metre plants per residence for personal use but also allows provincial\territorial governments to make this illegal. Quebec has already indicated it will not allow people to grow their own.

Saskatchewan has yet to establish an age of majority for legal cannabis use and possession.

The Province has indicated it will set penalties for those driving impaired or have a certain THC level in their system but has yet to establish the amounts or what the penalties will be.

An anticipated regulation is purchasers may face the same rules as with alcohol, where once purchased at a licensed outlet, it must be driven straight to a place where it may be legally consumed. 

Provinces and territories may also set regulations for such things as impairment levels for driving. As well as regulating where it can be sold, the number of licensed retailers plus where it may be smoked similar to tobacco smoking laws.

Bill C-45 will also amend the Non-smokers Health Act to prohibit smoking and vaping cannabis in federally regulated places or conveyances.

In Saskatchewan the provincial government has issued a potential 60 private licensed recreational retail outlets in 40 communities with populations over 2500. Moose Jaw City Council recently unanimously decided not to oppose the Province issuing two licenses for the city.

The Province, though, has allowed individual municipalities the right to use zoning to say where retailers are located, plus restrict where cannabis may be smoked in public.

Moose Jaw previously tabled a motion which would have allowed drawing up a bylaw to restrict smoking cannabis in public places where tobacco smoking is illegal. The motion would have developed a bylaw also making public cannabis smoking lounges illegal.

The Prime Minister has set July 1st as the date for recreational legalization. Concerns have been raised about whether provinces\territories have sufficient time to be ready by the legalization date.

A separate framework or rules would continue to exist for those seeking medical cannabis access under the proposed legislation.

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