While many people gathering outside the British Columbia Legislature On October 17th were there simply to celebrate, others were puffing, passing and protesting British Columbia’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, which pot activists argue is prohibitionist in its penalties.
David Larsen, who spoke with reporters that afternoon, urged the BC legislature to level out the laws regulating cannabis consumption to make the prohibitions and penalties on par with alcohol. The residual prohibitionist laws, he says, lead to unjust penalties for cannabis users in circumstances where alcohol consumption is dealt with more leniently. Larsen points out the imbalance in perhaps the most Canadian example ever: “if you get caught in a canoe drinking alcohol, you get a small fine, if you get caught in a canoe smoking a joint, that’s a $5,000 fine and three months in jail.”
He’s not wrong about the canoe. Section 65 of Bill 30: the Cannabis Control Act and Licensing Act provides that:
65 (1) A person must not consume cannabis while
(a) operating a vehicle or boat, or
(b) in or on a vehicle or boat being operated by another person.
(2) A person must not operate a vehicle or boat if the person knows that another person is smoking or vaping cannabis in the vehicle or boat.
(3) Subsections (1) and (2) apply regardless of whether the vehicle or boat is in motion.
The Act’s definition of Boat is broad, and clearly includes canoe as “a vessel or other craft in, on or by which a person or thing may be transported or drawn on water.”
Further, section 78 of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act allows a peace officer to arrest, without warrant, anyone who they reasonably believe is intoxicated in a “public place.” According to the Act’s definition of public place, this includes a boat “in any outdoor place open to public view.” This broad definition, in theory, implicates any boat on water in British Columbia.
So, when an individual that a peace office reasonably believes is intoxicated by cannabis in a canoe is arrested, the requisite testing will be ordered by the officer. Here, the issue of testing reliability arises: the suspect could be subject to cannabis sobriety testing using the widely criticized Dragar 5000-which has yet to be deployed in the province. Or, if the incident occurs in Victoria or Vancouver, where the police forces that have decided not to use the Dragar 5000, the officer can order blood tests to obtain evidence of intoxication. The question here is how long THC or THC COOH is detectable in blood: studies have pointed to detection times of up to 5 hours for THC and up to 25 days for THC COOH from a cannabis joint.
The penalty for contravention of these provisions are arguably steep: under s.110 (3) penalties for cannabis consumption or intoxication in a canoe, provides that for a first offence, persons are subject to a maximum fine of $5000 or imprisonment of up to three months, or both. A subsequent offence leads to a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 6 months, or both.
Breaking this all down it seems that unless you’re inclined to canoe on private, dry land inaccessible to public view, you’d do better to keep your paddle dry while high.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.