Canada Border Services May Use Fines Instead of Jail Time to Punish Certain Cannabis Offenders

Anyone caught trying to sneak a joint or two into Canada might soon be facing fines, rather than jail time, according to new sanctions being developed by Canadian border agency.

As part of a five-year, $40 million dollar plan to help Canada Border Services adapt to the country's reformed marijuana laws, Canada’s border agents are developing new administrative sanctions that provide more flexibility for dealing those who attempt to cross the border with a small amount of cannabis.

While cannabis is legal in Canada, importing it from another country without permission remains a major offense, potentially carrying a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. However, anyone caught with a small amount of cannabis - a couple grams or a joint or two - will likely face a fine as opposed to jail time under the new rules. 

But travelers shouldn't interpret the new rules as a sign that Canadian officials are lax about illegal transportation of marijuana. 

"The unauthorized cross-border movement of cannabis remains a serious criminal offence, subject to enforcement up to and including criminal investigation and prosecution," Border Security Minister Bill Blair said in recent briefing materials cited by CTV News.

But harsher penalties will remain on the books, and border officials will still be able to seize marijuana and any vehicle used to bring it into Canada, if they see fit. 

So if you picked up a joint while visiting California, Colorado or another legal state, it's best to finish it before heading back home - especially since US border agents can issue much stiffer penalties to cannabis consumers. Right now, Canadians can receive a lifetime ban from America if they even admit to having used cannabis at any point in their lives. So trying to sneak marijuana in their carry-on luggage would be a huge mistake.

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