Those who sell pot illegally will face $10K fine under Nova Scotia law

The Nova Scotia government will also allow police to suspend the licences to drivers suspected of being stoned behind the wheel.

Cannabis Control Act also introduces licence suspensions for drivers impaired by cannabis

The proposed law makes it illegal for anyone other than the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. to sell cannabis once it becomes legal this summer. (Canadian Press)

Drivers who toke in Nova Scotia will face stiff penalties if they are deemed to be impaired behind the wheel, and people who continue to sell pot, especially to those under 19, could face a $10,000 fine.

Those are just some of the provisions in the Cannabis Control Act introduced in the Nova Scotia Legislature Tuesday afternoon by Justice Minister Mark Furey.

"Our main priority has been the health and safety of Nova Scotians, especially children and youth," he told reporters before the bill was introduced.

The proposed law makes it illegal in the province for anyone other than the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. to sell cannabis once it becomes legal this summer.

Those who sell illegally face a $10,000 fine. Stores that continue to sell pot face fines of no less than $10,000 and up to $25,000.

"Dispensaries are illegal presently, dispensaries will be illegal once legislation is rolled out," said Furey, who expects there may be a crackdown by police once the proposed law is brought into force. "We may see a spike in [enforcement]."

Those who buy cannabis in Nova Scotia from anyone other than the NSLC may be fined up to $250. Young people who are caught with pot will face a $150 fine.

Even selling a bong, roach clip, rolling papers or other drug paraphernalia to someone under 19 is an offence that carries a fine.

Justice Minister Mark Furey. (CBC)

When it comes to driving, cannabis can only be in a vehicle if it is in a sealed package and out of reach to both the driver and passengers. No one in the vehicle is allowed to smoke pot. Violators face a $2,000 fine, and the rules extend to motorized boats.

If police deem a driver to be impaired, they will have the power to suspend the driver's licence, seize vehicles and demand a saliva swab or blood sample in order to determine their level of impairment.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, those convicted of impaired driving face a fine of at least $1,000 and a driving prohibition for a year, for a first offence. A second offence sees the minimum penalty increase to 30 days in jail and a lengthier minimum driving prohibition.

But even if authorities don't lay a charge, under Nova Scotia's law an officer can immediately suspend a driver's licence for a week if they believe them to be impaired. It's similar to the current law for drivers with a blood-alcohol level over 0.05 but below the 0.08 criminal threshold.

For subsequent "incidents" police will have the power to extend those suspensions to between 15 to 30 days. 

"Let me be clear, driving while high is not only dangerous, it is a crime and the legislation provides strong sanctions for those who drive while impaired," said Furey.

Andrew Murie, the CEO of MADD Canada, is pleased with what the McNeil government is proposing.

"We've been monitoring all provinces of what they're doing with cannabis and driving," he said. "And though Nova Scotia was one of the last two provinces to bring in provincial legislation to deal with drugs and driving, this is the most comprehensive that we've seen so far."

That's because the proposed law mirrors MADD Canada's position when it comes to impaired driving.

"What we do for alcohol, we should be doing for cannabis," said Murie. "Impairment by drugs by alcohol or a combination is the same."

The Cannabis Act also gives landlords the right to ban smoking cannabis or growing it in their apartment buildings and allows tenants to give early notice if they want out of their leases to move to another building that does allow it.

Last month, the province announced it will treat toking the same way it treats smoking in public places. That means people will not be able to smoke pot inside public venues or in outdoor spaces frequented by children, including parks, playgrounds and hiking trails. 

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.