Weed, Pot, Mary Jane, marijuana – these are all names for cannabis and its derivatives. Marijuana has been helpful to people with chronic pain issues, in calming muscle spasms and in neutralizing the nauseating effects of medications.

According to the Canadian Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)’s website, 44% of Canadians say they have used marijuana at some point in their lives. A Statistics Canada report on Police-reported drug offenses in 2013 stated that there were approximately 73 000 reported cannabis offenses that year, 80% of which were for possession.

Marijuana has become one of the wedge issues in the current election because of the Liberal Party’s plan to legalise it. The problem, however, is that many voters don’t know what the current state of Canada’s marijuana legislation is.

Cannabis and its variations and derivatives are considered controlled substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). This law works in conjunction with the Criminal Code to control drug offenses. Marijuana offenses can be lumped into two categories: possession-related, and supply-related (production, trafficking, and importing).

Photo by Hannah Hackney
Photo by Hannah Hackney

If you have marijuana in your actual possession, someone is holding it for you, or you have it stashed somewhere, you are considered in possession. You can’t possess, seek, or try and get it. If you try and get it from a doctor or dentist, you are guilty of an offense unless you disclose to them the particulars relating to its acquisition and every attempt you’ve made to try and get marijuana in the past 30 days.

The penalties for all these offenses vary depending on how many times you’ve been convicted. The maximum prison sentence for possession of is five years less a day OR for a first offense, a prison sentence not exceeding six months or fine of up $1000 or both.

For a second offense the maximum jail term of five years less a day applies, or you could be made to pay a fine of up to $2000 or serve a jail term of up to one year or both. In all cases, conviction will result in a criminal record.

Trafficking marijuana is selling, administering, giving, transporting, transferring, sending, or delivering it. Trafficking is also the selling of an authorization to obtain that people would have gotten from a healthcare professional, or even offering to do any of the aforementioned things.

The sentence depends on aggravating factors like whether the person used or threatened to use violence or a weapon, sold the drugs for a criminal organisation, or did so near a school or to a minor. The maximum sentence is life in prison, the minimum is one year. However, IF the amount of cannabis being trafficked was no more than one gram of resin or 30 grams of marijuana, the maximum sentence is five years less a day.

Importing and exporting of marijuana fall under article six of the CDSA. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, the minimum is one year. The sentence depends on whether the offense was committed for the purposes of trafficking, if the person abused a position of authority or trust, or whether the person had access to a restricted area and abused that access to commit the crime.

Growing marijuana and doing anything to alter its chemical or physical properties is considered production under the CDSA. The sentences vary according to the amount produced and aggravating factors like whether you’re using someone else’s property, said production put minors at risk, was a public safety hazard located in a residential area, or the person set a booby trap in the production location.

Growing marijuana comes with a maximum sentence of 14 years and minimum sentences of six months if you have less than 201 plants and more than five. If you have more than five plants but less than 201, you’re considered to be producing to traffic, and any of the aggravating factors apply – the sentence is nine months or the 14 year maximum.

Parliament Hill 420 Rally 2013 (photo by Joel Balsam)
Parliament Hill 420 Rally 2013 (photo by Joel Balsam)

If the number of plants is over 201 but less than 500 and any of the aggravating factors apply, the minimum sentence is 18 months. If the offender has more than 500 plants, the minimum sentence is two years unless the aggravating factors apply in which case the sentence jumps to three years. Though the law is silent about what the penalty is for having four plants or less, chances are you’ll get charged with possession, not production, as you were probably keeping those plants for personal use.

The Liberal Party’s plan is to “legalize, regulate, and restrict” access. Legalization would start with a task force of public health experts, substance abuse experts, and enforcement specialists to advise on the creation of marijuana regulations. This includes removing marijuana consumption and possession offenses from the Criminal Code, and enacting stiffer penalties for those who push marijuana at minors, drive high, and sell it without obeying government regulations.

Many critics argue that decriminalisation, and not legalisation, is the answer to society’s marijuana problems. Decriminalisation is the act of making something legal that was once illegal. Legalisation is the legal recognition of an unregulated practice or illegal act that society has already been tolerating.

However, Canadian society hasn’t exactly tolerated marijuana as police continue to arrest even those who keep the drug for personal use. These people often find themselves stuck with criminal records and there is no proof that tough cannabis laws deter use. Those convicted of marijuana offenses often continue to smoke it.

With the Harper Conservatives bellowing about how marijuana is worse than tobacco and most statistics saying otherwise, it is imperative that Canadians know what their rights are with regards to cannabis related offenses.

Regardless of why you have marijuana in your possession, remember that as long as it remains illegal, you can find yourself with a hefty fine or even stuck in jail just because you wanted some to ease your pain or lighten your mood and couldn’t get a prescription.

* Featured image by Joel Balsam

She was a good girl until she lit that reefer cigarette. Doobies and Boobies are what life is all about. Cannibis Culture hits mainstream and now suddenly even Justin Bieber is a stoner.

From classic reefer songs to Cheech and Chong and all the stoner comedy genre movies and now onto countless blogs devoted to marihuana culture and lifestyle. There is so much debate about legalization in the United States that I’m not even going to get into.

I think it’s silly to outlaw a plant that makes people laugh and be calm. You aren’t going to get into a high speed car chase when you are smoking weed. Nobody has ever overdosed from weed.

Cat 420 7

I’m always high but I’m grounded. Helps me focus on my art. Blurs the right lines and opens doors within my mind. I was gonna write this blog days ago, but the I got high.

Spending every last stripper dollar on $50 of blood shot baby blue bliss. Air fills with smoke as I exhale the sweet pungent skunky aroma of Maryjane through pursed red lips. Ganga goddess. Sticky icky chronic combustible herbage. Blunt burger whacky tobacky that Clinton just couldn’t inhale.

Bongs and crazy glass blowing techniques make smoking devices into an art form. Bubblers, bongs, things that look like science experiments, pipes shaped like unicorns or naked ladies. Taking a moment to smoke weed under a willow tree or puff one on the roof watching the sunset on a summer night.

Legalization in the US and Canada is a hot topic. Medical vs recreational use is a debate and Colorado is making so much money on pot sales that they actually gave money back to the people.

Of course the government wants to capitalize on our fun with all the sin taxes. Don’t want my drug dealers to go out of business. A marihuana arrest occurs every 45 seconds in the US.

Celebrities arrested for hittin the ganga: Fiona Apple, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Woody Harrilson, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dog ( or Snoop Lion), Macauley Culkin, and even Mischa Barten. So many more too. It’s funny.

Classic reefer songs are the best. This Friday , April 24th, just four days shy of the 420 holidaze, my friends and I are having an old timey reefer dance party at The Mohawk Place in Buffalo NY. Brassband, Dixieland, Americana, and Burlesque with Pine Fever, The Fredtown Stompers, Folkfaces, The 12/8 Path Band, The Buffalo Burlesque Collective, and The Stripteasers. We will be doing live burlesque to every band. I’m excited to break out my Cheech and Chong routine for this show.

My life feels a lot like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a wild and insane ride, like going to a circus on acid. It’s unbelievable really. I often think I’m in a waking dream, lucid yet flying high. Performers and colors creating art and music collaborating and merging souls in unfathomable ways. I am so ridiculously lucky.

Cat 420

I often want to run away with a circus, just pick up and dance off into the sunset with my fellow freaks, my family of crazies. Can’t wait till Friday night. It’s going to be magical.

Featured image by Lindsay Zasada