Legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis: the facts

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: 2018-03-13

The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada.

The Act seeks to:

The current program for accessing cannabis for medical purposes would continue under the new Act.

Cannabis would remain illegal until the proposed Cannabis Act is brought into force.

Restricted access

The Cannabis Act proposes many rules that would protect youth from accessing cannabis. 

Protecting youth

No person could sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18.

In addition, the Act would create 2 new criminal offences, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail, for:

In order to prevent youth from using cannabis, the Act would also prohibit:

Penalties for violating these prohibitions include a fine up to $5 million or 3 years in jail.

The Government has also committed close to $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities to inform Canadians, especially youth, of the health and safety risks of cannabis consumption.

Controlled access

Should the Cannabis Act come into force, adults who are 18 years or older would be able to legally:

The sale of cannabis edible products and concentrates would be authorized no later than 12 months following the coming into force of the proposed legislation.

Strict regulation

The federal, provincial and territorial governments would share responsibility for overseeing the new system.

The federal government’s responsibilities would be to:

The provinces and territories would license and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis, subject to federal conditions. They could also:

Criminal penalties

The Cannabis Act proposes offences targeting those acting outside the legal framework, such as those involved in organized crime.

Penalties would be set in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. Sanctions would range from warnings and tickets for minor offences to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for more serious offences.

Criminal penalties
Offence Penalties

Illegal distribution or sale

  • Tickets for small amounts
  • Up to 14 years in jail

Possession over the limit

  • Tickets for small amounts
  • Up to 5 years in jail

Production of cannabis beyond personal cultivation limits or with combustible solvents

  • Tickets for small amounts
  • Up to 14 years in jail

Taking cannabis across Canada’s borders

  • Up to 14 years in jail

Further penalties related to cannabis-impaired driving have been put forward in the proposed drug-impaired driving legislation.

The proposed Cannabis Act is informed by the recommendations of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.

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