Posted on - Oct 16, 2018

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

As of October 17, 2018, cannabis will now be legal for recreational use in Canada. The new laws permit individuals to possess, use and grow cannabis – also commonly referred to as marijuana or pot. While “recreational use” of “pot” will now be permitted in Canada, there are still many restrictions that apply. What does this mean for people coming to Canada whether to visit, work, study or live permanently?

The Federal government has provided for the legal possession of marijuana as set out in the Cannabis Act. The Act provides that an individual 18 years of age or older, may possess up to 30 grams of “licit” or legal cannabis and no more than four plants for cultivation. An individual can not possess ANY illicit cannabis, nor any budding plant in a public place. Trafficking, importation, distribution and production of cannabis for individuals are all prohibited except as described above. So, an adult is restricted as to how much cannabis they can lawfully possess and grow in the comfort of their own private property. The Act further provides that the Provinces and Territories will be responsible for determining how cannabis is sold in their jurisdictions and they have the added authority to set further restrictions such as:

  • lowering the limits from lawful possession to less than 30 grams;
  • increasing the minimum age for lawful possession to above 18 years of age;
  • restricting the locations for personal use; and
  • making further requirements for growing plants for personal use.

This means that individuals need to be aware of what the applicable laws are in each province or territory that they may be living in or visiting to ensure that the use of cannabis is permitted in that jurisdiction.

It is important to be aware of the difference between licit and illicit marijuana. Possession or cultivation of licit (legal) marijuana is permitted whereas possession or cultivation of illicit (illegal) marijuana will still attract criminal penalties. Transport of cannabis, even medically prescribed cannabis, across international borders remains illegal. In most countries possession of cannabis remains illegal and subject to a criminal conviction. Bringing legal marijuana into Canada from another country is not permitted nor is bringing legal Canadian marijuana into another country. While possession of cannabis for personal use is now permitted in Canada, carrying it across an international border is not and can result in either a Canadian or foreign criminal conviction. A criminal conviction or commission of an offence has serious consequences for both temporary residents (visitors, students, foreign workers) and permanent residents. A criminal conviction or a determination that a person has committed an offence (such as illegal possession in a foreign jurisdiction) can result in a person being found to being criminally inadmissible to Canada and denied entry for five years or more. It can also result in the loss of permanent residence status!

A further complication is the current legal status of cannabis possession or use in the United States. Several US states have legalized the personal use of marijuana including border states such as Alaska, Washington and Vermont. However, marijuana remains a prohibited drug in the US and possession of cannabis constitutes a federal criminal offence as does transporting it across the border. Whether purchasing lawful pot in British Columbia or in Washington State, bringing it across the border is illegal. Furthermore, the US government considers the possession or use of illicit drugs to be a crime of moral turpitude and border officials can impose a lifetime ban of entry into the United States. Even admitting to ever having used cannabis can result in being barred entry into the US – for life!

As Vancouver immigration lawyers we have noticed that while the laws in Canada for the use of recreational marijuana have changed, there is still a lot to be determined. Cannabis users are advised to proceed cautiously. Here are a few guidelines:

NEVER bring ANY form of cannabis across any international border.

If you do bring cannabis into Canada, be sure to DECLARE it to CBSA.

Do NOT use or purchase cannabis in ANY foreign jurisdiction, even US states which permit cannabis use. It still is a federal offence in the United States and Canadian border officials can determine that you have committed an offence and deny you entry to Canada – for more than 5 years.

Be sure that you are familiar with the laws for using cannabis in any province or territory that you are visiting.

Never give or share cannabis with anyone under the age of 18.

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

Share this article:

Related Topics: , ,

Related Posts

Immigration Minister Announces Immigration Levels Plan for 2016 On March 8, 2016, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Honourable John McCallum, announced the overall immigration targets for 2016. Ordinarily, the Minister is required to provide his annual report to Parliament on or before Novembe...
What ever happened to speedier processing times for Parents and Grandparents? Canada's Family Class immigration program has historically allowed for Canadians to be able to sponsor their parents and grandparents. However, in November of 2011, Canada's immigration program for parents and grandparents was suspended to allow for a ba...
When should I study in Canada? – Considerations for an International Student As September marks the start of another school year, it also marks the arrival of many of Canada’s international students. Often for international students, coming to study in Canada is not just to obtain an education but is the start of a path to permane...
CETA – Canada’s newest Trade Agreement provides for Exchange of Foreign Workers On September 17, 2017 the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) came into force providing for the exchange of services between Canada and the European Union (EU). CETA provides for the entry of business visitors, independent professionals and...
Canada’s Business Immigration Program To Be Back In Business With The New Start-Up Visa On January 24, 2013, Minister Kenney awakened the sleeping business immigrant program with the introduction of the New Start-Up Visa, the first of its kind in the world! The Start-Up Visa program seeks to connect immigrant entrepreneurs with private secto...
Are you ready to sponsor your parent or grandparent for 2015? Tens of thousands of sponsored family members are admitted to come to Canada every year as permanent residents. While the majority of family members admitted are spouses and partners, the second largest category of admitted family members are the parents ...