Adoption of the recreational cannabis act
On June 12, 2018, the National Assembly of Québec adopted Bill 157: An Act to constitute the Société québécoise du cannabis, to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety-related provisions.
Québec needed to produce a legislative framework because of the federal government’s move to legalize the use of non-medical cannabis during the summer of 2018.
“Cannabis legalization must not be perceived as a message that trivializes use nor as a sign of normalization, in fact it is quite the contrary. It is precisely because cannabis presents health risks that it must be regulated,” pointed out Lucie Charlebois, Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, at the press conference that followed adoption of the Act.
Bill 157 was adopted with 61 votes for, 46 against and no abstentions. The members of the Québec Liberal Party and Québec solidaire voted for, while members of the Parti québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec voted against. The PQ members wanted to prohibit the use of marijuana in public places and wanted Québec, not Ottawa, to manage the production of cannabis. In addition, the PQ leader stated that he was “very concerned” by the potential links between the owners of cannabis production companies and tax havens. CAQ members did not agree that the legal age for cannabis consumption should be set at 18 rather than 21, as it had wished.
The study of Bill 157 involved 136 hours of parliamentary work, led to the adoption of 138 amendments and required close to 7 months of work.
While Québec legislation prohibits growing recreational cannabis at home, the federal government proposes allowing Canadians to have up to four plants at home. The Senate recommended that federal legislation adopt an amendment that recognized the right of the provinces to ban home grows. However, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, confirmed that cannabis home grows will be authorized throughout the country in the Cannabis Act (C-45) adopted on June 19, 2018. Lucie Charlebois affirmed that Québec is ready to defend its position before the courts on this point of contention.
Key points of Bill 157:
- Creation of the SQDC (Société Québécoise du Cannabis) to ensure that public health and safety objectives are achieved;
- Minimum financing of $25 million per year, over five years, for cannabis-related activities involving prevention and research;
- Prohibition against minors possessing cannabis;
- A limit imposed on the amount that a person can possess at home (150 grams of dried cannabis or equivalent regardless of the number of residents);
- Prohibition against growing non-medical cannabis for personal use;
- Restrictions on the use of cannabis in certain places;
- Creation of an oversight committee to advise the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding this new phenomenon;
- Zero tolerance for driving a vehicle after consuming cannabis;
- Legal age for the possession and purchase of cannabis and to be admitted to a cannabis retail outlet is set at 18 years.