The Offences in British Columbia’s Cannabis Act

Article by Kyla Lee, Richmond News

The offences in B.C.'s Cannabis Act

There has been a great deal of discussion about the British Columbia Cannabis Act, but there has not been a solid breakdown of all of the offences under the Act. In an effort to provide a helpful guide, this post summarizes all the offences laid out in the Cannabis Act.

What is particularly interesting about the penalties in the Cannabis Act, is that many of the offences for possession, production, and distribution mimic those in the proposed federal regulations. This would mean that police have the opportunity to charge individuals under the provincial law or the federal law.

If charged under the provincial law, a person would not receive a criminal record. Only a federal offence can give a person a criminal record. In some respects, despite the consequences being as severe as they are, a charge under BC’s Cannabis Act may be a more lenient way to prosecute cannabis offences. Furthermore, the provincial law, if used as a substitute for the federal prosecutions, would serve the goal of effectively decriminalizing marijuana.

A good example similar to this is the impaired driving law. In Canada, impaired driving offences are criminal offences under the Criminal Code. However, in British Columbia many impaired drivers are dealt with under the Motor Vehicle Act and issued an Immediate Roadside Prohibition. This means that they escape criminal conviction and a criminal record for conduct that would otherwise likely lead to a criminal charge.

In many ways, this is a sensible way to break down the law. But there is further sense in the breakdown. The law differentiates between offences and administrative sanctions. So even those provincial offences, for which a person would not receive a criminal record, can in certain circumstances be dealt with administratively. However, theAct also contemplates that a person can both be charged with an offence and punished administratively. While this may seem wrong, there is recent legal authority in British Columbia that suggests this is lawful.

That being said, it is my prediction that if a person is dealt with administratively and pays the fine, there will be no prosecution.


Under the Act, the only persons who may possess cannabis are as follows:

1. The government;
2. A person who has an agreement with the government;
3. A person who has a license under the federal Cannabis Act, in accordance with the license;
4. A common carrier transporting cannabis, with authorization under the federal Cannabis Act;
5. A licensee, like a private cannabis retailer, in accordance with the terms of the license;
6. A person who purchased cannabis from a licensed retailer or the government;
7. A person who was given cannabis purchased from a licensed retailer or the government;
8. A person who bought cannabis outside British Columba lawfully and brought it into BC;
9. A person who is lawfully growing cannabis;
10. A person who has cannabis from a lawfully grown plant.

If in a public place, an adult must not possess more than 30 grams of dried marijuana, or an amount equivalent to 30 grams of dried marijuana if it is in another form. There is an exemption for medical marijuana or for an actual cannabis plant, provided there are not more than four plants in a public place.

Read the full article here.

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