Guns & Drugs: Canada’s Marijuana Legalization

The Canadian Firearms Program has provided this response when asked about what the actual law says federally regarding legally possessing/owning/using guns, alcohol, and marijuana (Updated Nov 10, 2018):

Re: alcohol, marijuana, and the Firearms Act

Thank you for your inquiry.

Neither the Firearms Act, nor the Criminal Code speak to the use of a firearm while in possession of alcohol or marijuana. As you correctly pointed out, section 22(b) of the Firearms Act prohibits the transfer of a firearm to someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

Section 85 of the Criminal Code deals with the careless use of a firearm, but being under the influence of alcohol or marijuana is not in and of itself deemed “careless use”. The elements of the offence still need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

However, most (if not all) provinces and territories have hunting regulations that speak to hunting while intoxicated. Additionally, most (if not all) shooting clubs/ranges have rules prohibiting the use of their facilities while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

The purpose of this mailbox is to provide general information on the administration of the Firearms Act. The Canadian Firearms Program cannot offer legal opinions or provide legal advice to individuals or businesses. Should you require advice on a legal issue, please contact a lawyer.



Canadian Firearms Program | Programme canadien des armes à feu

FSD Communications | Communications du PSMAF

For perspective on the provincial side for Saskatchewan, we turned to the Ministry of Environment (currently headed up by Hon. Dustin Duncan of the SaskParty). Unfortunately, the 2018 SK provincial hunting and trapping guide does not allude to drugs or alcohol. We searched the whole document and found nothing and have reached out to the Ministry for comment on why that is, and to hopefully push for language to that effect included in the Guide next year.

Meanwhile, for what the actual law says in Saskatchewan, we turn to the Wildlife Act, 1998. This is the piece of legislation that primarily concerns wildlife, hunting, fishing, etc. in SK.

“Hunting while intoxicated (39) No person shall hunt any wildlife while intoxicated or under the influence of a narcotic or alcohol. 1998 c.W-13.12, s.39”

As you can see, although it is not explicitly prohibited by the federal Firearms Act, alcohol and drugs are illegal to use while hunting. Which drugs may be the subject of debate, though, as legally speaking the term “narcotic” is imprecisely defined. When used in a legal context in the U.S., a narcotic drug is one that is totally prohibited and used in violation of federal law – so is marijuana considered a narcotic in Saskatchewan for hunting purposes? We’ll wait for the SK Ministry of Environment’s response for more on that.


[Original article dated October 31, 2018]

Canada is two full weeks into legalized marijuana as Halloween 2018 comes and goes.

The Canadian government wasn’t playing tricks when it handed Canadians the end of a substance prohibition recently. On October 17, 2018, Vancouver Granville-area MP and current Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould oversaw the coming-into-force of recently-passed Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts. The bill is now law, and Canadian gun owners are curious to know the effects of owning – legally and simultaneously – guns and drugs.

To put things simply and to summarize concisely, a Canadian owning/using marijuana in relation to owning/using firearms would be extremely comparable to alcohol under the legacy system (when weed was completely illegal, then medical exemptions, finally becoming recreationally available like alcohol).

Nobody seems to be warning of an impending epidemic of stoned gun users muzzle-sweeping everybody around, just as few are predicting a rash of impaired drivers. The low panic likely stems from the fact that it’s already illegal to mix alcohol or drugs with firearms in many circumstances, and would elicit a lot of unwanted attention criminally.

The Firearms Act in Canada does not appear to have any provisions related to alcohol or drugs outside of “transferring”. RGSL has reached out to the Canadian Firearms Program (today, Oct 31 by email) for comment.

You aren’t allowed, in Canada, to transfer a gun legally to someone “impaired by alcohol or a drug” (Firearms Act 22(b), Authorized Transfers and Lending, General Provisions).

SGI has an entire section on drugs and alcohol, and common sense says that most points that apply to vehicles/drugs or vehicles/alcohol would also apply to firearms/drugs or firearms/alcohol. They also point out: “Taking more than one drug, or mixing alcohol and drugs, and then driving is even more dangerous. Driving after you’ve taken drugs of any kind puts you at greater risk of injuring or killing yourself, your friends or other innocent people.”

Every gun range we’ve been to has, in their formal range regulations, a blurb about not being intoxicated while on the premises.

Every province has variations of “no open liquor”, but the different provinces have different approaches for where you can have marijuana. In Saskatchewan, it’s effectively a public prohibition as no public locations are legal for consumption under the SaskParty’s initial iteration on provincewide regulations.

Biathlon, as a competitive sport, bans drugs and alcohol in play. Curiously, it’s rumored that a certain amount (say a couple beers) of alcohol makes a person relaxed enough to shoot smoothly, while still being alert and in control, enough to not have the alcohol start to affect their major muscle coordination. So far we have yet to meet a doctor willing to comment meaningfully on the point.

The rules for marijuana vary from province to province. In Saskatchewan for example, legal age of consumption is 19, you can buy at private storefronts (and use those storefronts’ websites to order in-province). You can grow up to four plants of your own, subject to landlord restrictions. And, differently than most provinces, in Saskatchewan you can only smoke on private property and in private residences.

It’s a terrible idea to mix alcohol and shooting. Imagine you are out shooting, and when done, you leave the guns out and break out some beers. How does the police officer who rolls up knows when you stopped shooting, and started drinking? This makes segregation of our activities the main point here.

It’s the same when dealing in any intoxicating substance like marijuana, even if it’s legal. No matter what substance, please stay sober until after you have properly stored your firearms back in the gun safe. Then you are free to relax!

In the United States, things are a little different and are confusing given the division of gun and drug powers. Currently in America – federally – marijuana is illegal, while it has been legalized at a state-level at an ever-increasing rate in a number of jurisdictions there.

The Canadian government has started warning travelers that the U.S. “has a zero-tolerance policy and imposes severe penalties for the possession of even a small amount of an illegal drug.” and “The Canadian government will post signs at border crossings warning Canadians not to bring their legal marijuana into the U.S. – just as the Americans do for their citizens with signs informing them of Canada’s strict firearms regime.”

In the U.S., there are serious legal implications for gun owners who choose to use marijuana. Specifically, the Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits any person from possessing a firearm if they use or are addicted to cannabis. The “unlawful user” of marijuana – or any other federally restricted substance in the U.S. – cannot technically own firearms even if they are in a state like Colorado.

This ruling was challenged on Second Amendment rights grounds by a Nevada medical-marijuana patient, and in 2016 the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled that gun sellers can deny sales to medical marijuana users without violating the Second Amendment. Even then, in many states, unlicensed firearms dealers such as those at gun shows are not required to perform background checks. Roughly 22% of America’s guns are thought to be sold that way.

In Canada, a person can easily legally possess both firearms and marijuana simultaneously, as both are federally legal if certain requirements are met for each (age, licensing for firearms, etc). Canadians would do well to make sure their guns and drugs are kept far apart, and Americans would be even wiser – this Halloween – to not have both at once!

RGSL complies with all directives from the CFO, RCMP, and government/support agencies in order to help keep Saskatchewan safe!

RGSL runs Non-Restricted and Restricted gun license safety courses in Regina and Saskatoon. Check out the list of upcoming classes here. 

The content on RGSL.CA is not legal advice – please consult a lawyer for legal advice.