Newfoundland and Labrador
When the Canadian government announced it was moving toward legalization of recreational marijuana, it was a big deal in Newfoundland and Labrador, the easternmost province of the country.
When the government sent out surveys to its more than 500,000 residents, more than 2,600 responded.
Newfoundland and Labrador were in the middle of the pack of Canadian provinces in 2017 in per-capita use of cannabis, and slightly below the national average, according to Statistics Canada.
After receiving responses and public meetings, the government moved forward, passing a number of local bills and amendments to the national law.
After compiling results from its survey, the government released Stakeholder Engagement Report. Among the findings:
- a majority supported a 19-year-old minimum age for purchase and possession, which was established by national law;
- 75 percent approved added provincial penalties for drug-impaired driving, and
- 87 percent wanted restrictions on public smoking similar to those for tobacco and vaping.
An Act Respecting the Control and Sale of Cannabis(Bill 20), set the statutory framework for cannabis in the province, including licensing structure, inspection procedures, restrictions, and offenses and their penalties.
The legislature also amended its Liquor Corporation Act to give that organization oversight on cannabis business, added recreational cannabis to its 2005 Smoke-Free Environment Act.
The government also strengthened its impaired driving laws to include cannabis with “zero tolerance” for drivers younger than 22, as well as commercial drivers. Those operators will face seven (7)-day vehicle impoundment for the presence of any drugs or combination of drugs and alcohol in the body. A 30-day vehicle impoundment is imposed for refusal to comply.
Seven (7)-day suspensions and impoundments of vehicles will be imposed for all drivers failing field sobriety or drug recognition expert tests set by the federal government. These tests include general field sobriety and saliva tests administered by trained officers in each jurisdiction.
Penalties are accompanied by license suspensions of seven (7) to 90 days. Exemptions can be made to authorized medical users provided they are not deemed to be driving impaired.
Consumption in a vehicle comes with additional penalties and fines.
Under federal guidelines, drivers face graduated penalties depending on levels of drug and/or alcohol concentrations, as well as previous offenses.
Federally, the legal limit for THC in the bloodstream is two nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Concentrations between two (2) and five (5) nanograms per milliliter result in a fine up to $1,000. Concentrations of five (5) or more nanograms will result in a $1,000 minimum fine on the first offense, imprisonment of 30 days or more on a second offense, and 120 days or more on a third offense. Penalties for drug-impaired driving accidents can range from 18 months to life in prison for a fatal accident.
Where is it safe to purchase weed in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to purchase from private retailers in at least 24 locations approved, overseen, and supplied by providers licensed by the government’s Liquor Corporation. The initial list of 24 licenses was culled from more than 80 proposals. The government plans ultimately to issue more than 40 licenses to better cover the province.
Stores will be divided in four categories, or tiers.
- Tier 1 stores are standalone stores for customers 19 and older.
- Tier 2 stores are enclosed spaces in larger retail stores for customers 19 and older.
- Tier 3 stores are dedicated desks in larger retail spaces and separate from the main cash registers.
- Tier 4 stores are behind counters and hidden from view, similar to tobacco in convenience stores.
A number of the locations will be or adjacent to or within Dominion grocery stores throughout the province. Although cannabis and liquor are generally not to be co-located, some rural areas are exempt from this rule, particularly where liquor stores are already co-located with grocery stores and adequate retail space does not exist.
Retailers cannot currently sell online or by telephone for delivery. They may provide call or click for pickup options, but the customer would be required go to the store to pay for and receive the product. The government may allow for online purchases from stores at a later date.
Cannabis must be purchased from the government’s online store.
Customers are permitted to buy a maximum of 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of dried cannabis at one time, or equivalents in fresh cannabis and cannabis oils.
Premade edibles and extracts will not be available until the federal government passes authorizing legislation. This is expected to be in place on or before October 2019.
Employees will be required to take government-sponsored cannabis training programs.
Where is it safe to consume cannabis?
Smoking in Newfoundland and Labrador will only be allowed in private residences and on private property, and will not be allowed in public spaces, workplaces, or vehicles.
Property owners and landlords retain the right to restrict the smoking and growing of marijuana in leases and business contracts.
Consumption in public can result in fines between $50 and $500.
It is illegal to consume cannabis while operating a vehicle or boat. Penalties range from $300 to $10,000 or two (2) to seven (7) days in jail.
In a vehicle, cannabis must be stored in a sealed container that is not accessible during transport to the driver or passengers.
The legal minimum age to buy or possess cannabis in Newfoundland and Labrador is 19. The province followed federal suggestions to allow possession of up to 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of cannabis.
The national government has set equivalencies for one gram of dried cannabis to equal:
- five (5) grams of fresh cannabis
- 15 grams of edibles
- 70 milliliters, or 2.37 ounces, of liquids
- 0.25 grams of concentrate, and
- One (1) plant seed.
No limit was set for home storage.
Possession over the limit (30 grams or 4 plants) but less than 50 grams of dried cannabis in public or five (5) or six (6) plants at home may be punishable by a $200 fine.
Minors younger than 19 are not allowed to possess marijuana. Those found possessing less than five(5) grams face a $100 fine.
A retailer selling to a minor can face fines ranging from $500 to $100,000, plus two years in jail, depending on a number of convictions.
By federal law, patients using medical marijuana are allowed to have up to 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces — 30 times the daily dose prescribed by an authorized healthcare practitioner, of dried marijuana or its equivalent.
Is home cultivation allowed in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Newfoundland and Labrador will follow federal guidelines, allowing the cultivation of up to four plants (4) per household for personal use. Renters and those in multifamily residences may be restricted by leases or condominium agreements. These regulations do not apply to licensed homegrown medical marijuana, which is governed by national laws.
Medical marijuana in Newfoundland and Labrador
Thousands of Canadians are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana. Until the new law is passed, Canadians must the qualify for the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which came into effect on August 24, 2016.
Recipients must provide medical documentation confirming the diagnosis by a healthcare practitioner, either an authorized physician or nurse practitioner.
Patients must not be convicted of a marijuana-related offense, and must be registered only once at a time.
Generally, patients can qualify for medical marijuana under two categories. One is to allow for compassionate end-of-life care, for alleviating pain symptoms relating to illnesses and injuries, or for side effects from cancer or HIV/AIDS medications. The second category is for patients suffering from other persistent debilitating symptoms. Among the ailments Health Canada lists as possibly qualifying are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Back and neck conditions
- Brain injury
- Chronic nausea
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure, including patients receiving dialysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Vehicular crashes
Information on eligibility and applying is available at the Canadian government’s medical marijuana website.
Authorized caregivers are allowed to possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil, and may transfer or administer the substance or provide a medical document. They may also transfer cannabis to an individual who is responsible for the patient under his or her professional treatment.
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