Curious about cannabis? Here’s what you need to know about cannabis in Canada

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First off, what is cannabis?

Cannabis is commonly known as marijuana. It is from a plant called Cannabis sativa. This plant contains hundreds of chemical substances called cannabinoids that can affect our bodies in different ways. Some consume marijuana as part of their medical treatment as there is evidence that some of its components (like cannabidiol or CBD) can relieve severe pain, inflammation, nausea and chronic conditions. Others use it for recreation as it can cause a high and intoxication. This is caused by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering (psychoactive) substance. The effect on the brain depends on the age of the person and the strength of the THC. Studies have found that the greater the concentration of THC, the greater the harm it can cause to our brain and body (see health effects of cannabis below).

Aside from medical and recreational purposes, the cannabis plant has also been used for religious purposes. It can be consumed in different ways: by smoking, drinking or eating, vaporizing or vaping, or dabbing. It also comes in various forms. However, so far, only cannabis bud, flower and oils may be purchased for home consumption. Edibles, which are foods and drinks containing cannabis, will be permitted for selling within one year after the Act comes into force.

You may hear other names for cannabis such as: weed, pot, grass, bud, mary jane, herb, joint, ganga, and others.

Why did it become legal (and when did it become legal)?

This progressive law (Bill C-45, Cannabis Act) was mainly passed to better regulate the sale of cannabis, keeping the profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime. It also aims to help protect the youth from the risks of cannabis. The Act (as well as respective provincial law) outlines strict guidelines and penalties in terms of sale, usage, and cultivation of the plant. It is important to note that federal guidelines may differ from provincial guidelines. For instance, the legal minimum age is 19 years old for most provinces, except for Quebec and Alberta where it is 18.

While marijuana for medicinal use has been legal since 2001 subject to a doctor’s authorization, marijuana for recreation become legal on October 17, 2018. Read the Fact Sheet on the federal regulation and legalization of marijuana to understand the Cannabis Act.

Can anybody get Cannabis?

No. You have to be at least 19 years old to buy or consume it. In Manitoba, it is illegal to purchase it anywhere that is not licensed by the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA). You also cannot cultivate a cannabis plant in your home, unless you are licensed to grow it for medicinal use.

Other provincial laws:

  • You cannot smoke it in public. This includes streets and sidewalks, parks and beaches, school grounds, restaurant patios and decks, and grounds of health-care facilities, among others.
  • You can smoke it at home including in your backyard.
  • Manitobans aged 19 and older can only carry a maximum of 30 grams of dried cannabis anytime.
  • Young persons (those under 19 years old) are not allowed to enter a cannabis store (even when accompanied by guardians or parents).
  • It is illegal to give cannabis to someone who is under the age of 19. You could face criminal charges and serve jail time.

Aside from these, what other restrictions regarding cannabis do I need to know?

Among the most important components of the cannabis law that you need to know as a permanent resident are the Impaired Driving Offences Act and laws on travelling internationally with cannabis.

The Impaired Driving Offences Act under Bill C-46 outlines the penalties for those driving under the influence which includes being high on cannabis while driving. One of the most significant changes introduced is the increase in the maximum sentencing for impaired driving offenses (drinking and driving, dangerous driving, refusing to give a breathalyzer, fleeing the police and operating a vehicle while prohibited from doing so) from a minimum of 14 years to life in prison in cases causing bodily harm or death. This means that these offenses now fall under the category of “serious criminality” in Canadian law. This also means that foreign nationals with a previous conviction can be barred from entering the country and any permanent resident who commits any of these offences can be deported.

Also note that the Cannabis Act will not change Canada’s border rules. Taking cannabis or any product containing cannabis across Canada’s borders (entering Canada or leaving Canada) is illegal. This can cause criminal penalties here in Canada or abroad. Read Alcohol, drugs and travel, and Cannabis and international travel, Government of Canada to know the repercussions of carrying cannabis while travelling. Moreover, the Manitoba government prescribes users to consume it within the province or territory they belong to in order to be safe. Regulations vary in terms of possession and usage among provinces and territories.

To know more provincial regulations as well as facts about cannabis, go to: Cannabis in Manitoba.

What are the health effects of cannabis?

Since cannabis is a psychoactive drug, it has immediate effects on your brain. These can vary depending on your age and the type you consumed. Some short-term health effects include: euphoria (feeling high), relaxation, a sense of well-being, and heightened sensory experiences. However, some may also feel confusion; sleepiness or fatigue; impaired ability to remember, focus or react quickly; and even anxiety, fear or panic. This is why it is dangerous to work, drive, or operate machinery when high. Smoking marijuana may also damage blood vessels, decrease blood pressure (causing a person to faint), and increase heart rate (which can be dangerous for people with heart conditions). Some may have psychotic episodes with paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Generally, effects can be felt within seconds to minutes of smoking, vaporizing or dabbing and can last up to 24 hours. If you eat or drink cannabis, you will feel the effects within 30 minutes to two hours and can last up to 24 hours.

Cannabis has been shown to cause negative effects with long term use. Young people (as their brains are not fully formed yet) should not use cannabis. Adolescents also have a higher likelihood to being addicted to cannabis than adults (16%). Negative effects include impaired memory, concentration, intelligence and ability to think and make decisions. Just like smoking tobacco, using cannabis can affect lung health and lead to bronchitis, lung infections, and chronic (long-term) cough. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should not consume cannabis as it can lead to health problems for her fetus or newborn child.

 
Sources: Cannabis in Canada, Government of Canada; Cannabis Act stricter driving rules can impact immigrants, Steven Meurrens, Canadian Immigrant; The Can and Can’t of Cannabis, Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba; and Cannabis health effects, Government of Canada. Retrieved September 26, 2018.

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Community Resources

To get on top of the latest news about cannabis, go to: Cannabis Canada CTV News.

Need help and resources for talking to your kids or students about cannabis? Get the Cannabis Talk Kit prepared by the Drug Free Kids Canada.org.

Here are more resources prescribed by Manitoba Health:

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