So, these incarceration rates are looking a little “high”…

Every year, thousands of Canadians face a criminal record for the simple offence of possession of marijuana. Justice Canada estimates that over 600,000 Canadians have a criminal record for cannabis possession. In fact, police in British Columbia have reported that the number of cannabis drug offences have jumped from 11,952 in 2002 to 16,578 in 2011.

$%** man! It’s just a bit of herbal medicine.

What many people don’t know is that being caught with even a small amount of marijuana for personal use is enough to land you with a criminal record. Possession of marijuana is a criminal offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. You don’t have to own to marijuana to be charged with the offence—you just have to be in possession of it.

In order for the judge to convict you of marijuana possession, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • Had control of the marijuana, and
  • Knew the marijuana was there

Possession or Trafficking?

The amount of marijuana you are carrying on you is a significant factor. The more marijuana you have, the greater chance that you will be charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking. This is a more serious offence than simple possession, and has greater penalties.  Trafficking is basically the delivery of a drug from one person to another, and does not have to be done for the purpose of making money.

Summary Maximum Penalties

Indictment Maximum

 First offence  Subsequent Offences
Simple Possession   (cannabis marijuana 30 g or less) Maximum fine of $1000, 6 months in jail, or both   for first or subsequent offences N/A
Possession for the Purpose   of Trafficking (cannabis not more than 3 kg) N/A 5 years less a day jail time

Some of these penalties need to mellow down

If you had less than 30 grams of marijuana on you when you were charged, the maximum penalties are a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail, or both. Usually first time offences will be less severe than this. You may also get a criminal record, which will prevent you from travelling to the U.S. without a U.S. Entry Waiver and disqualify you from jobs which require you to be bondable. A criminal record will also show up in background checks, which must be done for almost any kind of volunteer work and most jobs.

The penalties for drug offences have changed since the introduction of Bill C-10, which is the same bill that changed the pardon process in Canada in March of 2012. Penalties for drug offences are now subject to mandatory minimum sentences. 

A Possible Change in the Law for B.C. Residents

The laws criminalizing marijuana in British Columbia may be changing soon. Sensible B.C. is a group that is pushing for a province-wide referendum on marijuana legalization.

To start the process, the group had to draft a bill to be accepted by the chief electoral office. With the help of legal experts, Dana Larsen, director of the group, wrote up the Sensible Policing Act which declares that no member of a provincial or municipal police force may use any police resources on investigations, searches, seizures, citations, or arrests relating solely to possession of marijuana.

To have any hope of holding the referendum, over 300,000 signatures must be collected in a 90-day period beginning September 9th, representing 10 per cent of registered voters in each of the province’s 85 constituencies.

If this goal is met, the bill will likely be referred to the chief electoral officer for an initiative vote. The initiative vote would require approval from more than 50 per cent of registered voters in total, as well as 50 per cent of registered voters in two-thirds of B.C.’s electoral districts. This initiative vote would not be binding on the government, but would force the draft bill to be introduced into the house for debate.

According to Sensible B.C., British Columbian taxpayers spend just under $9,000 per conviction for simple marijuana possession.

Also Read: Will Marijuana Legalization Erase Your Criminal Record?

How a Record Suspension Can Help You

If your possession conviction resulted in a criminal record, obtaining a Record Suspension can help. A Record Suspension will clear your criminal record from the Canadian Police Information Centre. This means that your offence will no longer appear in a background search, so you can be free to travel, apply for work, and have the peace of mind that comes with having a clear criminal record.