BC Cannabis Tickets
Any lawyer might decide one day that they’re a cannabis lawyer, especially now that cannabis is wide open and legal in BC and across Canada. At the BC Driving Lawyers we’ve been BC Cannabis Driving Lawyers for a long time. With each change of the law we’ve proactively kept our clients informed and protected when they faced cannabis driving offences. And we’re at it full-throttle defending BC cannabis tickets now that legal cannabis is finally coming online.
Cannabis and Driving: What You Need to Know
In Canada there are provincial offences and federal crimes for matters dealing with cannabis and vehicles. When the police or BC’s new cannabis cops give you a ticket, it’s important to determine whether you’re facing a provincial offence or the allegation of a crime. If you’re charged with a criminal offence, such as driving while impaired by cannabis, you will be given a court date. If it’s simply a Violation Ticket, then the onus is on you to dispute the ticket. You’re not presumed to be guilty. You can take the matter to court if you get a Violation Ticket.
But if you pay the ticket, then you’re deemed to have pled guilty and that’s the end of it. If you do not dispute in thirty days, you are deemed guilty, although there are some difficult remedies if you missed the dispute for reasons beyond your control.
Let’s talk about cannabis tickets (shall we?)
If the police are investigating you for a cannabis offence connected to your vehicle or boat, you will probably end up with a Violation Ticket under the BC Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. The thing about the BC cannabis law is that it’s adjudicated in traffic court. In other words, once the Violation Ticket is disputed a hearing will be set in the Provincial Court Traffic division, so the rules of traffic court, the terrain of BC Driving Lawyers is where it’s at.
The vehicle related offences under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act cover the behaviour of the driver (the operator) and the passengers and recognize a clear distinction between edibles and smoking or vaping. For example, if you’re a driver and someone in your vehicle is consuming cannabis edibles while you’re driving, that’s not an offence. This is reasonably logical.
What about things that are offences? Section 65(1)(a) makes it an offence to consume cannabis while operating vehicle or boat. The ticket amount is $575. Although it’s not a Motor Vehicle Act offence, we expect this conviction to be recorded on ICBC driving records and to impact insurance premiums going forward.
Interestingly, passengers in vehicles can be ticketed under the same section of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. Section 65(1)(b) sets out a $230 fine for using in a car while a passenger. So if you as the driver and 3 friends decide to roll a fatty and light up in your mom’s Altima, the police will likely issue the 4 of you at least $1,265.00 worth of fines. But that’s not all.
Mirroring the provisions in the Motor Vehicle Act, section 81(1)(b) makes it an offence for an adult to operating vehicle with cannabis in it contrary to Act. So, for example, if you’re camping in BC for the summer and you’re growing 5 plants in your VW microbus, prepare to pay a $230 fine.
Section 81 is a big catchall section to potentially fine you for doing anything in your vehicle with cannabis, short of transporting 30g of cannabis that you purchased from a licensed retailer. Arguably the section is too broad and risks being struck down or trimmed back when these cases go to court.
Of course, at this point none of these provisions concerning BC Cannabis Tickets have been tested in court. Often commentators, including self-proclaimed expert lawyers, end up eating their words when the courts start issuing decisions. Although there will inevitably be people who wish to mount constitutional challenges to these provisions, we would rather succeed on the facts for our clients whenever possible.
The big problem for the prosecution
In Canada we call the prosecuting lawyers “Crown Counsel” or simply “the Crown.” We use this same phrase in traffic court where police officers who prosecute the alleged offences are there acting on behalf or as agent for “the Crown.”
In all of the offences in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act the Crown must call evidence to establish the commission of the offence. So the burden of proof is on the Crown. Not only that, the Crown must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. So if it’s reasonable for the judge hearing the case to have a doubt about any key element of the offence, then the only result possible is an acquittal.
As we review the police procedure and the way the law reads, we think there are substantial hurdles that may make it impossible in many cases for the Crown to make out the case beyond a reasonable doubt. As dedicated driving lawyers, we’re accustomed to poking holes in the Crown’s case. When it comes to the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act the holes may be big enough to drive a VW bus through.
A cannabis ticket
If you’ve received BC Cannabis Tickets, i.e. a Violation Ticket under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, give us a call. We’ve been defending tickets for years. We know our stuff and we’ll help you with your cannabis offence ticket.