After months of debate and revisions, Quebec has adopted a law laying out the guidelines for the sale and distribution of cannabis in the province.
Premier Philippe Couillard’s Liberals, who hold a majority in the National Assembly, all voted for Bill 157. Québec Solidaire, which holds three seats, also voted in favour.
The opposition Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec voted against (more on that later).
Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois says the province will be ready when the federal legislation will be in place later this year.
But she also took pains to stress the government is not promoting cannabis and the legislation includes plenty of restrictions on its use.
The rules in Quebec rank among the most conservative in the country.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s in the legislation and what to expect going forward.
Where will it be sold?
The SAQ, Quebec’s liquor board, will oversee the sale and distribution of marijuana, but the sales will be carried out by a new, separate entity: the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC).
Marijuana will be available for purchase at SQDC-run stores and online.
There are plans to open about 20 stores by December and between 150 and 160 stores in the next two to three years.
The online store will be operational as soon as cannabis is made legal.
Can I grow it myself?
The short answer is no. Quebecers won’t be allowed to grow marijuana plants at home, even though the proposed federal law would allow Canadians to have up to four plants at home for their personal use.
The Senate made an amendment to the federal legislation last week that gives the final say on home grown pot to the provinces.
That will avert a potential jurisdictional showdown between Quebec and Ottawa if the amendment survives the final vote.
How old, and how much?
You’ll need to be 18 to legally consume cannabis. The CAQ wanted the age limit to be 21.
Quebecers will also only be allowed 150 grams of dried marijuana in their home — and will only be allowed to purchase a maximum of 30 grams at any one time.
Marijuana use will only permitted in the same places as tobacco. Smoking will also be prohibited on university and CEGEP grounds.
There will be zero tolerance for drivers — police officers will be able to ask for a saliva sample if they suspect someone is driving while high and will be able to suspend a driver’s licence for 90 days if a sample comes back positive.
When will cannabis actually be legal?
That depends on what happens in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that cannabis will be legal this summer, but there’s still much to do.
Senators voted last week to pass the Trudeau government’s landmark legislation to lift Canada’s 95-year-old prohibition on recreational cannabis with a number of amendments.
The government will have to decide whether to approve, reject or modify the senators’ changes before returning the bill to the Senate for another vote.
Why did the PQ and CAQ vote against?
The CAQ was expected to oppose the legislation. It had long advocated for setting the legal age limit at 21.
The PQ, though, had been expected to support the legislation. But PQ leader Jean-François Lisée took issue with several points in the bill prior to Tuesday’s vote.
In particular, he said the Couillard government should have gone further in banning the use of marijuana in public places.
He also argued for more provisions to ensure Quebec companies are involved in the production of cannabis.
Lisée said he was also “very concerned” about the potential links between the owners of cannabis producers and tax havens.
How does Quebec compare with the rest of the country?
The Quebec government has repeatedly stressed its legislation is aimed at ensuring public health, not at turning a profit.
The sale of cannabis in Quebec will be tightly controlled by the SQDC, while other provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan (among others), have opened the door to privately run stores.
Quebec is also among the only provinces, along with Manitoba, to prohibit growing marijuana at home.
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