Legalization: here’s what you need to know

On October 17, the Cannabis Act came into effect and set in motion the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada.

We’re sure you’re as excited as we are but some of you might still be wondering what it all actually means. What new things will people be permitted to do and what will still be illegal? It’s understandable to be a little confused – making something legal overnight was never going to straightforward. To help make things a little clearer, let’s explore some of the changes and what they will mean for ordinary consumers. When people hear the word legalization people might imagine an anything-goes kind of attitude. In fact, there will be strict new rules. After all, alcohol and tobacco are legal while still being controlled.

How much marijuana can I possess?

Under existing laws, medical users have been permitted to possess small amounts of marijuana. Now, for the first time, anyone over the age of 18 will be able to legally possess, grow and purchase cannabis.

Under the Cannabis Act, you will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis in a public place at any given time. Be careful not to exceed this amount, any adult found doing so could face up to five years in prison in the most serious cases.

You will also be allowed to keep up to four cannabis plants in your home with no limit to how tall they can grow. Having a budding or flowering plant in public or in your vehicle will still be an offence. Provinces may also place their own restrictions on personal cultivation. In British Columbia, for example, plants will not be allowed to be publicly visible from the street. So any budding BC horticulturalists should keep their plants away from the window.

Will I be able to buy edibles?

You will be allowed to possess up to 70 grams of edible marijuana product. But – and it’s a big but – it will still be illegal to buy edibles. Confused yet?

What this means is you will be able to possess and consume say, that batch of brownies you made, but you will not be able to buy pre-made edibles from licensed stores. The government looking into implementing the legal purchasing of edibles at some stage next year. So, for now, don’t expect to stock up on gummies.

Will I be allowed to smoke or vape in public?

There will still be restrictions about exactly where you can smoke or vape cannabis. Although you will be free to smoke at home, if you rent, some tenancy agreements may have clauses specifically banning this, so it’s best to check.

Provincial governments will decide which places are designated as acceptable smoke/vape spots. Smoking in a car, either as a driver or a passenger is illegal. Driving while high or driving while someone else is smoking in your car is not worth the risk. Not only is it dangerous, but new regulations are also going to come into effect on October 17 that will severely punish cannabis-impaired drivers.

Smoking in public will also be limited. Public intoxication laws, similar to alcohol, will be enforced. Places like schools and playgrounds where there might be children around will also be no-go areas for cannabis smokers. Smoking at a place of work, meanwhile, could not only land you in trouble but your employer as well.

If you are more of a social cannabis smoker, many provinces are going to have cannabis lounges. They will basically be like pubs, but for weed. Places specifically designated for marijuana users.

If you are in any doubt about whether it’s acceptable to smoke or vape in a particular place, a good rule of thumb is don’t. If you have to think about whether it’s OK to smoke or vape cannabis somewhere, it’s probably not. Just be considerate of other people – especially their children – and you’ll be fine.

Will I be allowed to share cannabis with another person?

Sharing cannabis with anyone under the age of 18 will still be illegal. You are allowed to share lawfully purchased cannabis with another adult but you are not allowed to sell it.

One sticky situation this presents is if a friend asks you to buy some cannabis for them from a licensed store and they will pay you back for it later. If you accept their money, even if it’s the same as the price you paid at the store, you are breaking the law. Since you are not a licensed retailer you could be fined up to $5,000 or even risk jail time. It’s best to err on the side of caution on this one and only buy for yourself.

Will I be able to travel with cannabis?

Each provincial government is going to have different rules around what constitutes transporting cannabis. In general, however, there will be nothing stopping adults from travelling between provinces and territories with their own supplies, but you will have to declare it if you are arriving in another Canadian jurisdiction.

There was some good news for Canadians involved in the cannabis industry recently when it was announced they will be free to enter the United States. Although weed is legal in several American states, it remains illegal on the federal level so it had previously been feared Canadian legal weed workers could be banned from entering the country.

Other things to consider about legalization

Many people may be surprised to find that not that much is actually going to change come October 17. However, this will be unchartered territory for Canada and it will undoubtedly be an adjustment for us all.

The most important thing to bear in mind after legalization is to consume cannabis responsibly. While it’s naive to think every single person is going to abide by the rules set out in the Cannabis Act, if the majority of us can enjoy recreational marijuana while being considerate and compassionate to each other, people might really start to see some of the benefits marijuana can bring to our everyday lives.

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