As of October 17th 2018 there has been a massive overhaul to the marijuana laws in Canada. As adults we can now purchase, possess, and consume marijuana legally, subject to a number of restrictions. But like with any big change, you can expect some confusion, some modifications and some bumps in the road in the coming months as these new and massive changes to the law get interpreted, applied and then tested in courts all over the country. Because of the complexity and multi-faceted impact of marijuana legalization, a lot remains up in the air at this early stage. School policies, policing policies and administrative policies are all also undergoing massive reviews to reflect the significant changes that will need to be implemented in response to marijuana legalization.
For now though, when talking to your kids about pot, here’s what you can count on for sure:
-In Ontario, smoking, possessing or purchasing marijuana under the age of 19 is and will remain illegal (no matter the amount).
-If your child is caught with marijuana he or she can be charged with a provincial offence.
-Penalties for such an infraction range from fines, to probation orders requiring counselling programs, to other court orders depending on the specifics of the infraction and whether your child is a “first time” offender or not.
-There will be a provincial offence record of the conviction.
-In addition to the provincial legislation, federal law makes it a crime for a youth to be in possession of more than 5 grams of marijuana.
-There are criminal provisions with serious penalties that apply to the trafficking of marijuana to a young person. (This is of particular importance if for example your 18 year old son gives marijuana to his 16 year old friend).
While the media coverage has been focused on sending the message that marijuana is now legal in Canada, it is important for your children to understand the difference between how these laws apply to adults and how they apply to them. This is particularly so given that both provincial offences and criminal offences can carry significant and serious penalties.
I know that navigating all these changes can be a daunting and confusing task. If you or your child has questions, feel free to contact me any time for additional information.
Ottawa Public Health is also hosting a number of information sessions across Ottawa, and has some very helpful resources on their website.