It’s clear that it’s illegal, across Canada, to consume cannabis while you’re driving, or to drive under the influence of cannabis.
What is less clear is how you can safely–and legally–transport cannabis in a vehicle, and these laws, and the interpretation of those laws, can vary by jurisdiction.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, several people have already been charged under the province’s Cannabis Control Act with improper storage of cannabis in a vehicle.
The problem? Legally purchased cannabis in a container other than the original sealed one must be either in the trunk of the vehicle or on a rooftop storage rack, out of the reach of the driver and passengers.
That means if you’re transporting cannabis to a party, or taking a joint home for the holidays, it’s not enough to merely keep it in a container and tucked away in a purse or backpack that’s in your back seat. It’s got to be out of physical reach, and you can be charged if it’s not–even if you aren’t driving while under the influence, or using cannabis in a vehicle.
Laws Set by Province
The rules for transporting cannabis in a vehicle are set by the province or territory but all are similar to Ontario’s, said Harrison Jordan, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in cannabis law.
Ontario law specifies that cannabis must be in its original, sealed container or “packed in baggage that is fastened closed” that is out of the reach of the driver or passengers.
The rules are similar to those around the transport of open alcohol in a vehicle, Jordan said, and those laws are a good general guideline for cannabis transport–though exceptions exist, and vary by jurisdiction.
In Alberta, packaging must be closed and out of reach of the driver and vehicle occupants.
In British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and the Northwest Territories, if the packaging is unsealed it must be out of reach–though “out of reach” is not defined specifically.
Exceptions and Surprises
It’s worth noting that in Newfoundland and Labrador, rules about cannabis transport also apply to boats, not just land-based vehicles. Other provinces and territories also have definitions of “vehicle” that differ from the obvious.
For example, Ontario’s laws also apply to snow-based vehicles like snowmobiles.
In British Columbia, the word “vehicle” in the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act refers also to off-road vehicles and bicycles or any other device operated by human power that may be used on a highway.
Boats and residential vehicles (like motorhomes) are, however, exempt in some jurisdictions. Ontario law makes the distinction for such vehicles that have “permanent sleeping accommodations and cooking facilities, and are parked or anchored” without “risk of being put into motion.”
One especially sensible variation on provincial rules: Newfoundland and Labrador law stipulates that cannabis in the possession of a passenger traveling by bus or taxi is permitted so long as that travel is for compensation.
Long story short? The safest bet, if you are transporting cannabis, is to have it in your trunk, Jordan said, where it is definitely out of reach of the driver or any passenger.