5 Things Canadians Should Know About the Marijuana Bill

If all goes as planned, marijuana will be legal in Canada by July 1st, 2018.

On Thursday, April 13, the Liberal government introduced legislation that will legalize and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana in Canada. This comes after the government set an ambitious deadline of July 1st, 2018, for legalization.

While many details will have to be determined by the provinces and territories, this legislation sets the stage for marijuana legalization next summer.

Here’s what Canadians should know about the bill.

Marijuana Will Be Legal, But Only in Small Amounts.

Yes, the bill legalizes cannabis possession. However, unlike alcohol or tobacco, Canadians will not be allowed to have as much as they please. The law will allow individuals to:

  • Possess up to 30 grams of marijuana on hand at a time; and
  • Grow four marijuana plants at home.

That’s it. Having more than 30 grams or growing more than four pot plants at one time will still be illegal. Exceeding those amounts comes with penalties, ranging from a ticket at the low end or up to five years imprisonment for possession of large amounts.

Government Will Limit Pot Advertising, Marketing and Branding.

Don’t expect to see billboards or hear radio ads promoting marijuana use. The government plans to implement strict controls over how pot producers and vendors can advertise their product.

It remains to be seen whether this will resemble restrictions on alcohol or tobacco advertising (the former is fairly lax, the latter strictly limited.) Either way, it’s sure to make for a great future episode of Under the Influence.

Giving Pot to Minors Will Be Illegal.

At this point in time, it’s illegal to sell pot to anyone (outside of a regulated transaction involved medicinal marijuana.) Once that restriction is lifted, there will be new criminal penalties for selling or supplying marijuana to minors.

There Will Be New Rules on Impaired Driving.

Driving under the influence of any drug, including pot, is already illegal. However, the new bill will create specific rules for marijuana use.

The law will set limits on the amount of THC a person can have in their bloodstream before getting behind the wheel, with penalties ranging from a $1,000 fine to life imprisonment for breaking the law. The Liberal government has promised to launch a campaign to educate the public on the dangers of driving while high, though the legislation does not provide for this.

Police will test for THC using a roadside saliva test. If they detect THC in the driver’s blood, police can then demand an evaluation by a drug impairment expert or a blood sample.

Provinces Will Decide Where and How Pot is Purchased and Consumed.

Now that the government has said when pot will be legal, the next biggest question on minds of Canadians has been where it will be sold. On this subject, the federal bill is short for answers.

Much of the framework for marijuana legalization will be left to the provincial and territorial governments. It will be between provinces and municipalities to decide where marijuana will be sold and where people can consume it. The federal government will continue to regulate industry standards on things like product safety and quality, but rules for inspection and compliance will also fall at the provincial level.

What this means is that marijuana regulation may well differ from province-to-province, as it does for alcohol. This could create confusion for those interprovincial pot users who plan to use and transport the product in more than one jurisdiction.

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