There are various defences available under the Cannabis Act, including the unlawful search and seizure of evidence. The right defence in your case will depend on the charges that have been laid and the circumstances of your arrest.
What is legal under the Cannabis Act?
When the Cannabis Act was introduced in 2018, it legalized the purchase, possession, consumption and distribution of non-medical cannabis across Canada. However, there remains a significant number of rules under the Act which, if breached, could result in serious penalties.
To clarify, the Cannabis Act permits an adult aged 19 or older to:
- Purchase cannabis products from an authorized retailer
- Possess up to 30 grams of legally purchased dried cannabis (or the equivalent amount of non-dried cannabis)
- Consume cannabis in authorized locations
- Grow up to four cannabis plants per household
- Share up to 30 grams of legally purchased cannabis with other adults
What remains illegal?
It remains illegal for anyone without the necessary authorization to:
- Possess illicit cannabis, or possess more than 30 grams of legal cannabis (or equivalent) in a public place
- Sell or promote the sale of cannabis
- Sell or supply cannabis products to minors
- Produce or grow cannabis, other than four cannabis plants per household
- Use cannabis while operating/in a vehicle or boat, or other locations such as public places, schools and workplaces
- Import or export cannabis
Penalties under the Cannabis Act
Not all offences committed under the Cannabis Act will result in a criminal prosecution.
For more minor offences, police officers have the option of issuing a ticket. This typically results in a $200 fine which, if paid within the required time frame, will bring an end to the matter. You will not incur a criminal record. Tickets are handed out at the discretion of the police officer, and may be given for offences such as owning five or six cannabis plants, or possessing between 30 and 50 grams of cannabis.
More serious offences can, however, lead to an arrest and the laying of charges. This would see that your case goes to court. The Cannabis Act permits the courts to impose a maximum jail sentence of 14 years.
Defending Cannabis Act prosecutions
If you are charged with a criminal offence under the Cannabis Act, there are various defences available. As criminal defence lawyers, we will devise the best strategy in your case. It may be possible to rely one of the following defences:
1. Unlawful search/seizure
Police officers must comply with the regulations regarding the search and seizure of evidence. If your property is unlawfully searched, the evidence is inadmissible in court. We can determine whether your Charter Rights have been breached. If so, we can apply to have the evidence struck out.
2. Lack of possession
You may be accused of possession, even if the cannabis is not found directly on your person. In these circumstances, the Crown must prove that you had knowledge and control of the drug. If there is insufficient evidence to prove this, we will argue that you cannot be found guilty of possession, in accordance with the terms of the Act.
3. Lack of evidence
A lack of evidence may also be key to defending other charges laid under the Cannabis Act. For example, the police may argue that you intended to supply or distribute cannabis, based on the way the seized goods were packaged. We will highlight any weakness in the Crown’s case, which may either result in an acquittal or a reduced charge.
4. Due diligence
In BC, it may be possible to argue due diligence, whereby you took reasonable steps to prevent the violation from occurring.
5. Attending a medical emergency
You cannot be charged or convicted under the Cannabis Act while you are suffering from, or attending to, a medical emergency. There are occasions when police officers fail to apply this exemption. If this has happened to you, we will draw this to the attention of the courts, ensuring your acquittal.
There are also other exemptions that apply under the Cannabis Act. For instance, those who use cannabis for medical purposes are permitted to grow more than four cannabis plants.
7. Other defences
The Cannabis Act is a relatively new piece of legislation. Defence lawyers are continually testing the law in court, meaning additional defences may become available. Therefore, even if you think none of the above applies in your case, there may be a way forward. We specialize in defending charges laid under the Cannabis Act and can advise you further.
Drug Offence Lawyers in Vancouver
If you have been arrested and charged with a cannabis-related offence, please contact our Vancouver criminal defence lawyers who are experienced in prosecuting and defending drug offence cases.