When is Cannabis Legal vs Not and What are its Effects?

The legalization of cannabis in Canada is creating economic growth, cutting into the black-market of illegal drug trade and avoiding criminalizing individuals for an activity that created little to no risk to public safety. However, like many laws, the laws around cannabis are unclear, leaving many Canadians uncertain about how they can safely, and more importantly legally, consume and use cannabis.

Where is Cannabis Consumption Allowed in Ontario?


The government of Ontario passed legislation that allows cannabis to be consumed in many places, including both private residences and public areas. The following summarizes some key places where you can and cannot consume cannabis in Ontario, as set out in the government’s Cannabis laws, which in general allow cannabis to be consumed in the same spaces individuals can smoke cigarettes


Some places cannabis can be consumed:
  • Private residences,
  • Designated smoking rooms in hotels, motels andinns,
  • Recreational vehicles and boats that meet certaincriteria (such as having permanent sleeping and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored).
Some places cannabis cannot be consumed:
  • Common areas of condos, apartments and university residences,
  • Enclosed public spaces,
  • Enclosed work spaces,
  • Non-designation smoking rooms in hotels, motels and inns,
  • On or within 20-meters of schools and playgrounds,
  • In childcare centers or places where early years program is provided,
  • In places where home childcare is provided, even when children are not present,
  • Within 9 meters from the entrance and exits of medical facilities,
  • On grounds of hospitals and psychiatric facilities,
  • On or within 20 meters of a publicly owned sports field (not including golf courses),
  • In a vehicle or on a boat while it is being operated.

As each province has the jurisdiction to pass their own cannabis legislation, note that the above list only applies in Ontario. Some provinces have set stricter rules, such as Manitoba where section 5.2 of The Smoking and Vapour Products Control Act prohibits cannabis use in public spaces.


There are no legal limits on cannabis consumption in Ontario in public spaces. However, laws that apply generally also apply to cannabis. For example, in Ontario, being intoxicated in a public place, is subject to a $50 fine, which applies no matter what substance an individual has used.


Cannabis’ Effects


Cannabis impacts everyone differently, in part depending on the gender, weight and experience using cannabis products. There are also different strains of cannabis products that produce different effects. New users should start with small doses and allow a significant amount of time to pass before consuming more cannabis. As noted by WebMD, cannabis may:

  • Heighten your senses (colors might seem brighter and sounds might seem louder)
  • Distort your sense of time
  • Hurt your motor skills and make driving more dangerous
  • Lower your inhibitions so you may have risky sex or take other chances.

While considered not overly addictive, about 1 in 10 users will become addicted, increasing to 1 in 6 who use cannabis as teenagers.


Laws Against Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis


As cannabis can impact motor skills, there are new prohibitions against driving while impaired by cannabis. Canada’s cannabis laws are clear – do not mix cannabis use with the operation of a motor vehicle, including boats, quads and other motorized forms of transportation. Laws set by the Federal Government  make it an offence to drive with over 2 nanograms of THC per ml of blood. It is a more serious offence to drive with about 5 nanograms of THC per ml of blood, or a combination of 2.5 or more nanograms of THC in combination with 50 mg or more of alcohol in your blood (.05 BAC).


It is unclear how long an individual must wait in between consuming cannabis and driving. Because THC binds to fat molecules, it does not leave the body as fast as alcohol. Healthline reports that THC can be detected in a blood test typically for 1-2 days after consumption, but has been found in some cases up to 25 days after the last consumption.  For salvia testing, which the police can do at the roadside, a study in 2014 found that occasional users had detectable levels of past-cannabis use for 1 to 3 days after last consumption, and this increased to up to 29 days for chronic users.


There is already a constitutional challenge filed against Canada’s new cannabis impaired driving laws arguing that the laws criminalize a driver who would not be impaired. The driver in this case was using medical cannabis with a prescription to treat multiple sclerosis. This highlights an important part of Canada’s cannabis laws – for impairment it does not matter if you are using cannabis recreationally or for medical purposes – the law operates the same way.


Laws Against Transporting Cannabis Outside of Canada


Here, the law is clear – do not travel outside of Canada with any form of cannabis, including dried flower, oils including CBD oil, and down the road when they become legal forms of edible cannabis. Cannabis is still illegal in the majority of the world, and even where it is legal to consume there are still laws against importing. Furthermore, if flying you may have a lay-over, expected or unexpected, in a country where cannabis remains illegal. Lastly, Canadian laws make it a crime to export cannabis outside of the country. The government of Canada is clear that cannabis, both recreational and medical, should not be taken outside of the country.


Contact a Richard A. Allman, Drug Offence Lawyer, Orangeville


While cannabis is now legal, the newness of the laws, coupled with the fact those consuming, selling and producing cannabis must abide by laws set by the federal government, province as well as different municipal by-laws creates some uncertainty in the law. If you have been charged with a cannabis based offence, or other type of drug offence, call 519-940-0415 to speak with a criminal lawyer in Orangeville. Richard A. Allman has nearly 30 years of experience dealing with all types of criminal charges.

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