The YCJA and Recreational Cannabis: What You Need to Know

PUBLISHED ON December 18, 2019

YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act)

The YCJA (Youth Criminal Justice Act) outlines the procedures and rights of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 who have been charged with a criminal offence in Ontario. With the passing of the Cannabis Act, it has raised many questions for youths and what is legal and what is still considered a criminal offence.

Q. Who can legally possess recreational cannabis?

A. Anyone age 19 or older can possess and use recreational cannabis in Ontario. Each province has its own specific age requirements.

Q. What are the specific requirements for possessing recreational cannabis?

A. Besides the age requirement, adults can:

  • Purchase cannabis from a government-approved online or retail store.
  • Consume cannabis in specific areas, like the privacy of one’s home.
  • Legally possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public.
  • Legally share cannabis with others who are 19 or older.
  • Grow and harvest up to 4 cannabis plants per household – not per person.

Q. Where and when can recreational cannabis be used in Ontario?

A. Just like there are rules for possession, there are also rules for using recreational cannabis that include prohibitions on its use:

  • In specific public places, like playgrounds or schools.
  • While operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, or boat.
  • When even just a passenger in a motor vehicle, on a motorcycle, or on a boat.
  • In bars, restaurants, bar and restaurant patios, and other public seating areas.
  • In non-smoking hotels and motels.

Q. What restrictions are there for youths and recreational cannabis?

A. In Ontario, anyone under the age of 19 cannot legally:

  • Purchase cannabis
  • Use cannabis
  • Possesscannabis
  • Sharecannabis
  • Grow or harvest cannabis plants

In addition, anyone 19 or older who purchases or shares recreational cannabis with anyone under the age of 19 can be charged with a criminal offence.

Q. What will happen if someone under 19 attempts to purchase, possess, or grow recreational cannabis?

A. Anyone under the age of 18 can be charged with a criminal offence under the YCJA. Those who are age 18 can be charged as an adult.

Q. Do the underage recreational cannabis rules apply at school?

A. The laws regarding the possession and use of cannabis at schools were not changed. In addition to the aforementioned, students can be reprimanded with suspension or expulsion.

Q. Is it legal to use medical cannabis if you are under 19?

A. Yes, the use of medical cannabis is allowed for those under the age of 19. However, one must first qualify for, and obtain a valid medical marijuana prescription.

Q. What should I do if I am under 19 and have been charged with cannabis criminal offence?

A. You should speak to a qualified YCJA criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to learn about possible defences to the charges.

All of the foregoing is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be taken as legal advice.  To obtain legal advice and for a free consultation with Toronto YCJA criminal defence lawyer, Brian Ross, please call (416) 658-5855 today!


A criminal record can have lifelong ramifications. Don't take a chance with an inexperienced attorney. I will fight to get your life back as I have done with countless others before you.

(416) 658-5855

Brian Ross is a founding partner at Canada’s largest criminal Law firm, Rusonik, O’Connor, Robbins, Ross & Angelini, LLP. Prior to founding this firm, Brian was a partner at Pinkofskys, a leading law firm famous for its vigorous defence of its clients.

Selected for the 2022, 2023, and 2024 editions of the Best Lawyers in Canada

Inclusion in the Best Lawyers in Canada is based on a rigorous peer-review survey. Recognition by Best Lawyers symbolizes excellence in practice and specifically, high calibre work in criminal defence.


Mr. Ross is a member of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and Legal Aid Ontario’s “Extremely Serious Matters” Panel, consisting of criminal lawyers deemed to have the proven experience necessary to conduct trials in the most serious of criminal matters.


You will be contacted to discuss the case in confidence.