On the Brink of Marijuana Legalization

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

With the election of the Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau just a few short weeks ago, Canada is now on the brink of legalizing marijuana. After decades of prohibition, Canadians are finally discussing the implementation of a national, regulated system for the sale of marijuana. The question of how to implement the legalization of marijuana is a big one, with many considerations. According to the Liberal party platform, one of the first steps on the path to legalization will be to establish a provincial, territorial and federal task force to hear from experts in the public health, substance abuse and law enforcement fields. Trudeau has not yet revealed how he plans to fulfill his election promise.

At present, the use of medical marijuana is already permitted by law. Last June the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously held that patients who qualify for medical marijuana have the right to obtain not just dried buds but any form of cannabis they find useful. Today, federally licenced producers produce and sell medical cannabis under rigorous safety and quality standards. The Liberals now intend to create a licenced and regulated marijuana system serving the recreational market, eliminating penalties for the possession of marijuana.

The Liberal party election platform also promised to create “new, stronger laws, to punish more severely” people who sell cannabis to minors, or to people operating outside of their as yet undefined new system. Given that outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was already responsible for introducing mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis offences, it is unclear just what kinds of “more severe” punishments the Liberals have in mind.

Legalization of cannabis should also include an amnesty for past cannabis convictions, so that those criminal records are erased from the system. The prohibition against marijuana has caused untold harm to the lives of many Canadians. Erasing all possession convictions and granting immediate pardons would be a step in the right direction. For trafficking or cultivation charges, there should be a process in place to allow people to have those criminal records erased, provide no violent or other significant crimes were also committed.

If you have any questions about marijuana charges or any other criminal defence matter, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.