History in the Making: Marijuana is on the Brink of Legalization in Canada. Here’s Everything You Should Know Before the Fast-Approaching D-Day

Cannabis Sales to Reach an All-Time High: Here’s How That Might Potentially Affect You

With the upcoming legalization of cannabis, the drug possession landscape in Canada is drastically reshaping itself.  Early predictions state that the number of legal recreational users in the country could inflate to about 3.8 million, with estimated marijuana sales reaching stratospheric heights at $6 billion come 2021. These statistics reflect that the combined yearly demand for the drug will be upwards of 575,000 kilograms.

With such a diametric change in drug laws and all the new information filtering through, you might find yourself in need of expert legal representation. If so, get in touch with John Erickson, a reputed Toronto-based drug possession lawyer, who has almost two decades of extensive legal experience and a successful track record of defending countless individuals charged with drug-related offenses.

Onto Greener Pastures: All Eyes on Canada as Marijuana Legalization is Almost Upon Us

On June 18, 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a game-changing development for the cannabis industry, stating that Canadians will legally be allowed to use recreational marijuana as of October 17, 2018. This puts us mere months away from a historic moment that will end a near century-long prohibition. Marijuana was completely banned in 1923 in the country, with medical cannabis becoming legal in 2001. Despite the ban, the industry remained fertile and thrived nonetheless.  Statistics suggest that about 21% of Canadians aged 15-19 and 30% between the ages of 20-24 use the drug at least once a year for non-medical purposes. In November 2017, the House of Commons passed an official legislation to legalize the recreational use of the drug and this went on to pass a second reading under the scrutiny of the Senate in March 2018.

Staying true to his 2015 election campaign promise to legalize the drug for personal use, Trudeau ended months of speculation regarding the official commencement of the legislation. This sweeping motion by the Liberal government is truly a novel enterprise – and one that we can’t help but watch unfold with bated breath. Canada is the first mega-industrialized G7 nation to allow for the recreational and medical use of the drug, save for Uruguay – the only country to currently have a federal-level nationwide stipulation in place that allows for the unrestricted use of cannabis.  

Smoking Out the Ill-Effects of Cannabis and Placing Public Safety at the Forefront of This Legislation

The federal government has given a nod of acknowledgment to the fact that there is an ever-growing need for a competitive and viable industry, albeit one that is focused on restricting the drug’s use among young people, ensuring that it is tightly controlled and that black market entities are weeded out.  These objectives stem from public-health related motives, with the government focusing on spreading awareness of the ill-effects associated with cannabis use. It is important to make a mental note of this motive, being that other jurisdictions in the past didn’t legalize the drug for all the right reasons. For instance, Nevada enforced the drug’s legal use with the sole purpose of generating tax revenue.

The Canadian government was intent on doing its research prior to the passing the legislation. With public education being at the focal point of this move, safety data and baseline health-related information were painstakingly gathered and examined to decipher isolated variables right from poison calls to use patterns.  

To further drug-related awareness, the government has proposed having it enclosed in unmistakable bland packaging with prominent disclaimers detailing the health risks and addictions associated with cannabis. Additionally, Health Canada’s requirements state that this packaging must display all the vital information that a consumer could possibly need to make an informed decision. This includes the THC/CBD levels, the name of the cannabis strain and the name of the manufacturer.

Marijuana 101: Where Will You Be Permitted to Purchase it Legally, How Old Do You Have to Be to Use it and What Are the Repercussions of Breaking Possession Laws?

The government has left some of the rules associated with purchasing and using the drug a little hazy, stating that while regulating the production of the drug falls upon them, each of the ten provinces are free to decide the medium through which it will be sold. For example, Quebec and Ontario have decided upon dispensing the drug through subsidiaries of provincial liquor stores. Going against the grain, Manitoba and Alberta have settled upon privately run stores. Alberta, in particular, will distribute the drug through over 200 private retailers while Ontario has 40 provincial stores at the ready. The other provinces are opting for a hybrid of the above two approaches. For instance, you will be able to buy the drug from Loblaws grocery stores in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Many have criticized this decision, dubbing it “patchwork governance.” While the government deliberately chose this semi laissez-faire approach to dispensing the drug in a bid to celebrate regional differences, opponents of this decision aren’t too pleased with the inconsistency of rules across the country.

Adults (18 years and above  – although provinces are allowed to set a higher minimum age if they like) will be allowed to carry no more than 30g of dried cannabis at a time. Failing to abide by this law can lead to a five-year imprisonment. Quebec and Alberta have set the minimum age to be legally eligible to purchase marijuana at 18 years, whereas the remaining eight provinces have upped it to 19 years. While you will be permitted to share the drug freely among your acquaintances, you will not be allowed to deal the drug. To wit, if you are an unlicensed retailer, you can face up to 14 years in prison and a fine of up to $5000.

Legal stipulations will also allow you to grow no more than four plants at your home and each of these shouldn’t exceed one metre in height. While nine provinces have fallen in line with this requirement without hesitation, British Columbia has an added clause stating that these shouldn’t be grown in public view.

Have Illicit Traders Planted the Seeds of Their Legalization Into Authorized Channels?

It is believed that the rampant illegal cannabis market was partially responsible for the federal government legalizing the drug. Illegal marijuana dispensaries rake in a whopping $7 billion annually. The federal government spends over $2 billion to enforce this industry. What isn’t, perhaps, as astonishing is that the procedure to acquire a license to legally deal cannabis in Canada is rife with bureaucratic complications and red tape. This poses a significant entry barrier, threatening a shortage of supply in the legalized market, especially until production capacities can catch up with the demand.

In what is a startling twist to this entire tale, early reports suggest that a couple of Canada’s illegal dispensaries are very likely to withstand the transition and find themselves licensed retailers of the drug.

Is This a Gateway to Legalizing Other Drugs and Impacting Drug Possession Laws As We Know it?

Justin Trudeau is maintaining an adamant stance that his administration will not be de-criminalizing any other controlled substances. Despite several petitions to do so at the Liberals’ 2018 policy convention, his decision remains unswayed. As there is a significant difference in health risks associated with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl as compared to marijuana, experts do not predict there to be any change in the drug possession laws in the future.

However, the legalization of cannabis opens up a very important dialogue. Two primary reasons that prompt the legalization of controlled substances are: health-based and enforcement-related. If we’re following through with the enforcement approach, other illegal drugs could perhaps be legalized, restrictedly, in order to curb their being retailed underground. Regardless, this new legislation is a stepping stone to how we tackle illicit substances and rehabilitate people who face drug addiction and drug-related charges.

We’re just one call away!

Drug possession laws, especially with regards to marijuana, will soon encounter a very controversial change. If you find yourself in need of a trusted and experienced criminal defense lawyer to competently handle a drug conviction in light of all this new information, get in touch with Erickson Law at (416) 363-3612.