What does the legalization of cannabis mean for youth?

Smoking weed or using cannabis as medicine is now legal, but there are rules and regulations you must follow to possess or consume it.

What's cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant that's often used as medicine or as a recreational drug. 

Since October 17, 2018, under federal law, individuals over 18 years of age are allowed to possess and consume recreational cannabis. However, in many cases, the provinces have further increased this age requirement. In Ontario, only individuals over 19 years of age may possess and consume recreational cannabis.

Although recreational cannabis is legalized across Canada, the provinces may further restrict its consumption (e.g., smoking, vaping, or eating) through their own laws. Also, each local municipality (e.g. city or town) and private places may create even further restrictions.

If travelling within Canada, individuals are subject to the laws of the province and municipality to which they travel. If travelling outside of Canada, it is illegal to transport the recreational or medical cannabis across international borders.

Rules for possessing recreational cannabis

In Ontario, only those above 19 years of age are allowed to possess recreational cannabis, consume it, share it with those over 19 years of age, and grow up to four plants per household. Youth under 19 years of age are not allowed to buy or consume it, possess any amount, share it with anyone, nor grow or harvest cannabis plants.

Rules for consuming recreational cannabis

Generally, it is legal to consume recreational cannabis in private residences (but not workplaces, retirement homes, or long-term care facilities) and outdoor public places (e.g., sidewalks or parks).

It is illegal to consume recreational cannabis at work, in certain public places (e.g., playgrounds or near school grounds), while being a passenger in a vehicle, while inside a restaurant, bar or on a patio, or within nine metres of a patio. Further restrictions may apply on consuming recreational cannabis through municipal bylaws, lease agreements or the policies of employers and property owners (including rules of condominium owners).

It is also illegal to operate or drive a vehicle (e.g., car, truck, or boat) while under the influence of cannabis. Individuals under 21 years of age cannot have any cannabis in their system, as detected by a federally approved oral fluid screening device.

If these rules are broken, individuals may receive a Provincial Offences Ticket. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, more severe consequences can follow for youth between 12-17 years of age who are caught being in possession of over five grams of recreational cannabis or for sharing it with anyone below 18 years of age.

If these rules are broken by youth inside a school then a suspension may be considered for a student under the influence of or in possession of recreational cannabis. If a youth provides recreational cannabis to another under 19 years of age, then he or she will be suspended and expulsion will be considered.

In Ontario, individuals may currently buy recreational cannabis from the government online at www.ocs.ca. Plans are being undertaken to allow government licenced businesses around April, 2019 to also sell recreational cannabis.

Rules for consuming medical cannabis

Medical cannabis is cannabis which is used for medical purposes. An individual may only qualify for medical cannabis if his or her doctor or nurse practitioner provides the necessary medical documentation. An individual cannot just claim to their school, workplace or the police that they use cannabis for a medical purpose.

There are no age restrictions which apply to medical cannabis but there are different rules on buying and possessing it. Generally, the same rules governing where recreational cannabis can be consumed also apply to where medical cannabis can be consumed.

With regards to driving or operating a vehicle, if a police officer is satisfied that the individual is legally authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes, then the individual will not be subject to Ontario's zero tolerance drug requirements for young drivers. However, the individual may still face penalties or criminal charges if the police officer determines that the individual's ability to drive has been impaired.

Since the production and sale of medical cannabis is regulated solely by the federal government, the only way to purchase medical cannabis is from a federally licensed producer.