Cannabis and Police Searches: Protecting Rights

Police Searches Related to Cannabis

Cannabis was legalized in Canada on October 17, 2018 for recreational and medical purposes. The legalization for recreational purposes was achieved with the passage of Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act by Parliament on 19 June 2018. 

Although the Cannabis Act allows for legal use of cannabis, each province and territory is allowed to enact restrictions and regulations regarding sale, distribution, and use of cannabis. 

In Ontario, the Cannabis Control Act (CCA) has a zero tolerance for young, novice or commercial drivers. Just like alcohol, you are not allowed to have any cannabis in your system (as detected by a federally approved drug screening device) if you are driving and you:

  • are 21 or under
  • have a G1, G2, M1 or M2 licence
  • are driving a vehicle that requires an A-F driver’s licence or Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR)
  • are driving a road-building machine

Police have tools and tests to detect impaired drivers, including roadside drug screening equipment and sobriety tests.

If a police officer finds that you are impaired by any drug or alcohol, you can face serious penalties, including:

  • an immediate licence suspension
  • financial penalties
  • possible vehicle impoundment
  • possible criminal record
  • possible jail time

The punishment for having open, accessible cannabis in a vehicle (or boat) is a maximum $100,000 fine, one year’s imprisonment, or both.

A search must be based on reasonable suspicion

There have been concerns that police are using the CCA to conduct unwarranted searches that are based on little more than speculation and may violate charter rights.

Under the CCA, Ontarians are legally entitled to transport up to 30 grams of cannabis in a vehicle provided it is:

  •  unopened original package
  • “fastened closed” and not readily available to anyone in the vehicle

Based on these definitions, it has created numerous cases where defendants have accused the police of using the CCA as an excuse to search for other possible offences. There have now been calls for the courts and province to limit police powers, and point to British Columbia, where police require a warrant to search vehicles for pot. Further, the smell of cannabis alone should not constitute enough reason for a search of a vehicle.

Penalties for possession over the limit can result in a ticket for small amounts or up to 5 years less a day in jail for larger amounts.

Contact a Lawyer about Cannabis Related Case

If you believe the police conducted an unwarranted search, contact Rishma Gupta today to discuss the details of your case. Our firm has extensive experience with drug-related criminal offences. A police officer’s use of this search power can be challenged in court. You can argue that the officer lacked sufficient grounds, or the search was unreasonable. This could lead to the exclusion of evidence found during the search.

Rishma Gupta has a track record of successfully defending clients across a range of offences including drug related offences from Toronto to Thunder Bay, and across Ontario.