Canada’s recently unveiled cannabis legalization effort is generating plenty of discussion, largely due to the fact that it would be the second country in the world to allow “full” recreational use of the substance nationwide. While legalization will require approval from the Parliament, its passage is quite feasible because of a Liberal majority in the House of Commons. The overhaul appears as a monumental step forward in cannabis freedom, but there is no shortage of limitations, restrictions and penalties for those not in full compliance of the law.

The bill would allow adults 18 years of age and older to possess up to 30 grams, or a little over an ounce, of cannabis. Adults would also be allowed to grow up to four plants on their property for personal use. Most regulations regarding retail sales would be decided upon by individual provinces.

One positive aspect of this bill is that cannabis would be legalized throughout the entire country, unlike the United States with its varying state laws under continuous threat of the government which still deems cannabis illegal at the federal level. Canada would join Uruguay as the only other country in the world to broadly legalize the substance.


However, there are some hefty stipulations attached to this bill serving as a clear indication that the Canadian government’s war on drugs will remain in effect, as the bill would be “imposing serious criminal penalties for those operating outside the legal framework.” In their commitment to keep cannabis away from minors, cripple the black market and deter impaired driving, the Canadian government has plenty of penalties within this bill for users who sell to youth, drive under the influence of cannabis or attempt to distribute and sell marijuana without a license.

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The penalty for selling cannabis to a minor ranges from a $15,000 fine and 18-month prison sentence to up to 14 years in jail, dependent upon the seriousness of the charge. Selling cannabis without a license also carries a prison sentence, ranging from 6 months to 14 years depending on the allegation. The government has gone a step further by aiming to prosecute people who have too much on their person or in their garden. Possession surpassing the allowed 30 grams, possession of flowering or budding plants in public, possession of “illicit” cannabis, and possession of more than four plants carry possible jail time as well: between six months and five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000 depending on the circumstances of the charges.

In addition to the prohibited actions in the bill itself, a synchronous bill was introduced that would expand police powers to order saliva samples from drivers suspected of operating under the influence of drugs and greatly increase penalties on drivers under the influence of drugs including cannabis. According to CBC:

Three new drug-related offences will be also be created for drivers who have consumed drugs within two hours of driving. A driver who is found to have two nanograms but less than five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood could face a maximum fine of up to $1,000 (THC is the primary psychoactive found in cannabis).

A driver who has a blood level of more than five nanograms of THC, or has been drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time, will face a fine and the possibility of jail time. In more serious cases, a drug-impaired driver could face up to 10 years if convicted.

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The government did not specify which drug testing device it would recommend police use for enforcement, but other jurisdictions use the DrugWipe system, which can detect traces of cannabis, opiates, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamines (MDMA, ecstasy), benzodiazepines and ketamine.

While Canada’s law is a step forward in effectively allowing more people to access cannabis, the strings attached do little to increase overall freedom for users, and there will be a plethora of ways to imprison and fine users who stray from using cannabis within the provided authorizations; while some penalties are described as part of the goal to reduce impaired driving and protect youth, the Canadian government will essentially continue to put people in jail for cannabis offenses including “over-possession.”

The bill is aiming for implementation in the middle of 2018; while details will likely continue to be crafted, legalization in Canada will carry hefty restrictions unless significant changes are made to the proposed law.

New Hampshire-based writer Annabelle Bamforth is focused on breaking the left/right paradigm through new media and local politics. Annabelle is the editor-in-chief of Emmy-winning journalist Ben Swann's Truth In Media Project and a producer for Mr. Swann's Truth In Media episodes.
  • The Cat’s Vagina

    The fascist strings attached aren’t exactly good policy, but the important thing to remember is that THIS IS A START!


    For T.H.C. to be an effective treatment for my depression,schizophrenia and pain conditions, I require and maintain at least six (minimum) nanograms to be present. Pretty high yes! but that is what it takes for me. The Canadian laws appear to apply to casual users and not those with serious medical conditions.

  • foodforthought

    No one should promote the canard that marijuana is dangerous, like Big Pharma’s drugs.

    In November of 2011, a study at the University of Colorado found that in the thirteen U.S. states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent–more than the national average, while sales of beer went flat by five percent. .

    In 2012 a study by 4AutoinsuranceQuote revealed that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating a motor vehicle is slower driving”, which “is arguably a positive thing”.

    Marijuana is the most benign ‘substance’ in history. And it has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!’”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana is a neuroprotectant that actually encourages brain-cell growth. Researchers in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries have discovered that it also has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.

    Drugs are man-made, cooked up in labs, for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them. Often useful, but typically burdened with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm.

    Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. In 1936 Sula Benet, a Polish anthropologist, traced the history of the word “marijuana”. It was “cannabis” in Latin, and “kanah bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair.

  • skypockets

    Yay and then boo. Are they as stringent about drunk drivers or distracted drivers?

    • Madmotorman™ ® The Mad Hatter

      They have snuck in impaired penalties for alcohol. then the genius in parliament said that is the number one killer to justify , it, so fricken wrong, Distracted is now and no, nothing more for distracted. But hey may as well kill the guy who snitches on you, you will get less time.

  • This is some scary stuff since the only tests show nothing but the presence of THC and that in no way is a accurate representation of intoxication.

    • Ed

      That’s our Ace in the hole! Any lawyer can get THC levels thrown out as evidence if it cannot be proven the person was impaired physically. They will have to come up with computerized cameras ($$$) to show impairment! A cop with a pencil will not cut it as he is not trained to give these tests!

  • SmotPoker

    Christ, as much cannabis as I consume if I were to live by the letter of the law, at the age of 51, I couldn’t drive again until I was around 89. I sure as hell can guarantee you that having 5 ng of THC in my system is not going to impair me in the slightest, that’s my standard operating level. It’s also stupid to compare it to alcohol, because the buzz is totally different, as are the impairments.

  • Stevenemartin

    They better start building more prisons

  • 174thandvyse

    Flawed as it is, it is still a legalization bill, and we must be thankful for that. Just don’t do the things that are prohibited, and I suppose that you’ll be alright.

    • Kathleen Chippi

      1937 Reefer Madness was based on lies, prejudice and greed. “Flawed as it is, it is still a legalization bill, and we must be thankful for that.” lol PLEASE–how can anyone be thankful they have apparently successfully RE-BRANDED 1937 Reefer Madness as 2017 ‘legalization’.

      When governments (perpetrators of the WAR) can let 2017 SCIENCE, SANITY AND HUMANITY direct the END of prohibition, only then should we be thankful….until then the same lies, prejudice and greed that started this WAR continue RE-BRANDED as 2012-2017 ‘legalization’

      Real legalization REMOVES CRIMINAL PENALTIES – it doesn’t let them remain or create MORE prohibitions based on un-scientific lies, prejudice and greed.

      • Kathleen Chippi

        I did come out with it–Only base prohibition laws on science, sanity and humanity…..over-regulating a non-toxicc plant that has a recorded history of over 8,000 years of use isn’t scientific, sane or humane….

        • 174thandvyse

          Yes, that’s quite true. Still, I’m happy that there is at least some movement in our direction, regarding this issue. I have waited a long time for this.

  • nunya bidnit

    no way this passes the sniff test. Thats what you get when you put a cop in charge of legalizing something… More police powers.