Update on cannabis and cannabis-related penalties for Canadian and Non-Canadians

On October 17, 2018, the Cannabis Act came into force legalizing recreational cannabis in Canada. This new legislation impacts all Canadian and non-Canadian citizens.

Cannabis and International Travel

Entering and Leaving Canada

It is illegal to take cannabis, or any product containing cannabis, across Canada’s international borders and can result in serious criminal penalties both in Canada and abroad. This includes traveling to and from places that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis, and transporting cannabis for medical purposes.

Travelling to the United States

It is illegal to bring any form and quantity of cannabis across the Canada-U.S. border and can result in legal prosecution, fines and possible jail time. Previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S.

Cannabis-Related Penalties for Non-Canadian Citizens

On December 18, 2018 new impaired driving penalties will take effect, and the maximum penalties for most cannabis-related offences will increase to 10 years. This means most cannabis-related offences and will fall under the definition of serious crimes for immigration determination purposes.

Inadmissibility to Canada

Under federal immigration law, a permanent resident or foreign national can be deemed inadmissible if they have been convicted of a Canadian offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or of an offence for which they have actually been sentenced to more than six months behind bars.

In addition, the same rule applies to those who have committed an offence in another country that, if committed in Canada, would carry a penalty of up to 10 years.

Meeting International Obligations

As of result the cannabis and impaired-driving provisions, the new legislation could mean:

  • Permanent residents might lose their status and have to leave the country
  • Temporary residents — including visitors, international students and foreign workers — may not be able to enter or stay in Canada
  • Refugee claimants may be ineligible to have their claim referred for a refugee hearing.



More Information:

More information about cannabis, its process of legalization, its use in Canada’s provinces and territories, and driving laws is available on the Government of Canada website.