Passage Of The Cannabis Act- How Does It Affect Immigration Status For Permanent And Temporary Residents?

Passage Of The Cannabis Act- How Does It Affect Immigration Status For Permanent And Temporary Residents?

Changes to the Cannabis Act (CA) came into force as of October 17, 2018. The Government of Canada has published changes to have a better understanding of these changes which I outlined below:

The main change brought about by the CA is to allow adults (over 18 years of age) to legally:
• possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public
• share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults
• buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer
• in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers
• grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use
• make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products.[1]

The same law (ca) also introduces a category of “illicit” cannabis. Possessing any quantity of “illicit cannabis”, will remain illegal, and punishable as outlined below. For a better understanding and clarity “illicit cannabis” means cannabis that is or was sold, produced or distributed by a person prohibited from doing so under this Act or any provincial Act or that was imported by a person prohibited from doing so under this Act (cannabis illicite).

Section 8 of the CA creates a new offence that prohibits, among other things the following:
• Possession of more than 30g of dried cannabis (or its equivalent in other forms);
• Possession of “illicit cannabis” (which includes cannabis not purchased from a licensed distributor).
• The offence under the CA is now strictly ‘hybrid’ (or indictable). Under the CDSA, possession of small amounts was a purely summary offence.
Now the question is how are these changes affecting the immigration status of permanent and temporary residents?
Foreign nationals are inadmissible for “simple” criminality under s.36(2) of the IRPA. Inadmissibility can arise from among other things:
• being convicted abroad for an offence that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to an indictable (hybrid) offence;
• being convicted abroad for two offences that, if committed in Canada, would be equivalent to a summary offence;
• committing an act abroad that, if committed in Canada, would be punishable by an indictable (hybrid) offence.
As mentioned above, under the old rule possession of small amounts of marijuana was a pure summary offence. Therefore, two foreign offences would have been required in order to be inadmissible.
Under the new CA, all marijuana offences are now indictable- therefore a single conviction would trigger inadmissibility.
If you commit an impaired driving or a crime related to cannabis, you could face a fine, will be charged criminally or in jail. However, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) may find you inadmissible to Canada for serious criminality. It doesn’t matter if the crime happened inside or outside Canada.

Possible Outcomes?
– Permanent Residents may lose their status and have to leave Canada;
– Foreign nationals on temporary status ( including visitors, international students and foreign workers) may not be able to enter or stay in Canada;
– Refugee Claimants may not be eligible to have their claim referred for a refugee hearing;
Appeal rights for permanent residents and foreign nationals, including sponsored members of the family class, could also be affected.

Please note that most cannabis-related crimes will have a maximum penalty of 14 years.
Next month, December 18, 2018, the impaired driving penalties will take effect. Most impaired driving offences will then be considered serious crimes in Canada. The maximum penalty for most impaired driving offences will increase from five (5) years to ten (10) years.

The impact of these new penalties on permanent and temporary residents could be critical.

A word of caution: You should not act or rely on the information provided in this column. It is not legal advice. To ensure your interests are protected, retain or formally seek advice from an immigration lawyer or a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant in good standing of ICCRC. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the lawyers or immigration consultants.

Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)

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