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Having Marijuana at School: The Potential Consequences your Child Needs to Understand

A lot has changed in relation to the now quasi-legalization of marijuana in Canada. What has not changed though, is that kids (which in Ontario means under 19), cannot under any circumstances legally consume, possess, or share marijuana.

Any marijuana in the possession of a minor is a provincial offences infraction and could result in a fine or other penalties.

Let me say that again - if you're under 19 - marijuana is still illegal under the provincial legislation, period.

Worse, someone who is under 18 and in possession of more than 5 grams of marijuana could be charged with a criminal offence (pursuant to the federal legislation).

Similarly, any minor caught distributing or cultivating marijuana could be charged with a criminal offence.

So, the bottom line is this: kids caught with marijuana could end up having to deal with a provincial offences ticket, or worse, could be charged with a criminal offence depending on the amount in their possession and/or if they are alleged to be distributing or cultivating.

To that end, it is important that parents and kids alike understand the potential consequences of being caught with pot at school. Given the recent changes to both federal and provincial laws surrounding adult consumption/possession/cultivation of marijuana (its regulated - meaning legal in certain limited quantities), school boards across Ontario have been re-examining their policies, directives and applicable legislation in order to ensure that their way of handling student infractions involving marijuana are in line with the current state of the law. Modifications have consequently been made.

Ultimately, what you need to know is this:

· The Education Act requires school administrators to consider suspension for a student who is in possession of cannabis at school or school related activities;

· The Education Act requires school administrators to consider suspension for a student the administrator believes to be under the influence of cannabis;

· The Education Act requires school administrators to suspend a student for giving cannabis to a minor (ie another student), and also requires the administrator to consider expulsion of that student;

· School administrators retain a discretion not to suspend where mitigating factors (addiction, first time incident, student's ability to understand etc.) weigh against such action being taken;

· School Board Protocols no longer require school administrators to notify the police with respect to incidents of possession of cannabis or sharing/giving cannabis, it is now up to the administrator to decide whether police need to be contacted. BUT trafficking in cannabis (selling it) requires the police to be notified;

· School Board Protocols now emphasize the importance of programming and treatment for marijuana use in hopes of connecting students with supports to stop any recurrence of similar incidents;

· Parental consent is required in order to connect a student with rehabilitative supports (such as psychologists, addictions counselling programs, social workers, etc).

Should your child get caught with marijuana at school, its important to understand the exact kind of behaviour they are being accused of. While consumption or simple possession should and will be treated more leniently by school administrators, incidents of sharing or worse trafficking in marijuana are far more serious.

Its also important to advocate on behalf of your child and put forward any mitigating factors that may assist the school principal in concluding that the circumstances do not in fact call for your child's suspension or expulsion.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns about school policies, or should you need any advice in relation to a marijuana related incident involving your child at school.

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Having Marijuana at School: The Potential Consequences your Child Needs to Understand | Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter