The Significance of October 17, 2018
In our last article, we talked about Mexico being one step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana as well as how the legislation stands now for medical marijuana. In this article we are going to talk about Canada.
As most of us know, October 17, 2018 is a very significant date in Canada. It is the date that recreational cannabis finally became legal (Bill C45), and we know that other countries, including Mexico, are watching closely. What you may not know is that the legalization of recreational has had an impact on medical cannabis which has been legal since 2001, and changes and improvements have resulted. More on this later.
What is now in place with regards to recreational are very structured legal guidelines that controls not only the possession but the production, sale and distribution of marijuana.
The act that controls this is the Cannabis Act and its mandate is:
- Keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth;
- Keeping profits away from criminals;
- Protecting public health safety for adults.
Note: These rules are for adults 18 years of age and older and subject to the guidelines of each province or territory.
Let’s look at what the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada means.
What is Legal
The following touches on what is now considered legal (legal is defined as dried or equivalent in non -dried form, in public):
- Possession of a maximum of 30 grams. Note here that it has to be legal cannabis (as defined above);
- Can share up to a maximum of 30 grams of legal with other adults;
- Must buy from a provincially-licensed retailer – if not available then can buy online from federally-licensed producers;
- Grow from licensed seed (or seedlings) with a maximum of 4 plants per household for personal use;
- Can make products such as food and drinks, at home, as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.
Note: Edible products and concentrates will not be legal for sale until one-year after the Act came into force (October 17, 2018).
Legal Possession Limits
According to the Cannabis Act, these limits are based on dried cannabis; one gram (one ounce) is equal to the following
- Fresh cannabis – five grams
- Edible product – fifteen grams
- Liquid product – seventy grams
- Solid or liquid concentrates – one-quarter gram
- Cannabis plant seed – one
In other words anyone over the legal age can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis. That sounds like quite a lot, doesn’t it?
Protecting our Youth
Strict guidelines have been put in place to ensure our youth are denied access which includes age restrictions and promotion. No one may sell to anyone under the age of 18 and if this happens there are penalties in place – a maximum of 14 years in jail. This could occur if someone is found to be giving or selling cannabis to those under 18 and using a youth to carry out a cannabis-related offence.
Note: some lawyers consider this harsh treatment and right up there with penalties for terrorists.
This protection of our youth goes even further. For instance, packaging must not be appealing to youth, sold in vending machines nor should promotions be readily seen.
Again, we are looking at severe penalties to the tune of $5 million or 3 years in jail!
Public Health Safety
Education is ongoing and targeting awareness with regard to safety and any public health risks.
Who is Responsible for What
Responsibility to see that regulations are carried out is split between the provinces, territories and federal government.
Provinces and territories have their own set of responsibilities with regard to developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems with regard to sale and distribution and can also add safety measures; for example, raising the legal minimum age requirement, consuming in public, lowering possession limit and even lowering number of plants per household.
The Federal government is responsible for overseeing the requirements for producers and manufactures of cannabis as well as industry-wide rules. Examples of this would be types of products for sale, packaging and labeling, serving sizes and strength, control over ingredients, production standards, promotional activities and tracking requirements.
Educating the Public
The government feels that the Act will keep Canadians out of prison by allowing them to consume cannabis legally. Penalties will range from warnings to tickets to jail time depending on the severity of the criminal activity. It’s early days yet to see if these penalties will actually be enforced.
Here is a short interview with Jodie Emery who has been an activist for years and her views on the legalization of marijuana, as well as her thoughts on people who have been incarcerated in the past and hopefully will be given full pardons.
With regards to penalties the following is taken into consideration:
- Activities arising from outside the law such as organized crime;
- Penalties for the seriousness of the crime which can range from warnings and tickets to prosecution and imprisonment;
- Specific targeting of crimes involving youth.
For more in-depth information, go here.
As you know, in Canada, our rules regarding Medical Marijuana are clearly defined.
As someone who already has a medical license, I did not think about the impact or any changes that would take place due to the Cannabis Act coming into effect in October of this year.
New regulations have been implemented to replace the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations). As long as the patients are authorized by their health care provider they can:
- Purchase directly from federally licensed vendors;
- Produce a set amount of marijuana for their own medicinal use as long as they register with Health Canada;
- Choose someone to produce it for them;
- Purchase marijuana at authorized provincial or territorial outlets or authorized online sales as long as the legal age limit is met that is set for their province or territory.
Accessing Marijuana from a Federally Licensed Vendor
Certain improvements have been made:
- Allowed to request from a federally licensed vendor the return or transfer of their medical documents;
- The effective date will not be when the document was signed by the health care provider but the day it was issued;
- The 30-day limitation for buying marijuana will be lifted so that patients won’t have any interruption in their supply;
- More allowed products;
- An opportunity to purchase from more producers and sellers thus providing competitive pricing, more supply and increased availability.
Producing Your Own Medical Marijuana
Patients are still able to register with Health Canada to produce their own medical marijuana or have someone do it for them. Under the new regulations:
- As stated above, the effective date will not be when the document was signed by the health care provider but when it was issued;
- If no renewal application is received by Health Canada before the expiration of the certificate, the registration will remain valid until such time a decision is made.
Impact to Registered Patients
Note: Those patients already registered with ACMPR need not do anything at this time as your registration has automatically transitioned to the new Act and new regulations and your expiry date will remain the same unless your registration has been cancelled under other circumstances.
A renewal application should be completed at least 8 weeks before expiry.
Limits and Possession of Personal Medical Marijuana
You can now store as much cannabis at home as you want as long as you are of legal age. For those registered with Health Canada or a federally licensed vendor, the limits remain the same for public possession:
- This would be your 30-day supply (or the lesser of 150 grams) of cannabis product in addition to the 30 grams permitted for recreational purposes.
Proof of legal access to more than 30 grams in addition to authorized medical marijuana must be shown if requested by law enforcement personnel. You can show this proof by being in possession of:
- A registration document issued by a federally licensed vendor;
- A Health Canada registration certificate for designated or personal production;
- A Health Canada registration certificate for possession only (for those who choose to obtain their supply of medical marijuana exclusively from provincial or territorial authorized retail or online outlets).
More Improvements and Benefits
- Health Canada will evaluate the review and approval process allowing Canadians to obtain a wider range of medicinal options;
- The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are investing in more research on cannabis and cannabinoids;
- Health Canada will also be involved in procuring and studying data from cannabis surveys;
- Health Canada will continue to conduct scientific reports with regard to therapeutic benefits as well as adverse effects.
This video was done in March just before the legalization but it addresses the government’s mandate to do further studies on marijuana.
It would appear that the government, Health Canada and the CIHR are prepared to invest heavily and are committed to doing all they can to learn – and be proactive – about the benefits as well as any adverse effects of medical marijuana.
It was announced by the CIHR in January 2018 that funding in the amount of 1.4 million dollars was allocated to fourteen projects on a wide variety of issues relating to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
The CIHR also partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction in July of this year launching a 3 million dollar Catalyst Grant for Cannabis Research in Urgent Priority Areas.
For their part, Health Canada has provided an information document on the benefits and adverse effects of marijuana for medical uses.
What are your thoughts about these changes and improvements that have been made with regard to medical marijuana as a result of the October 17th decision to legalize recreational marijuana?