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Quebec’s Cannabis Regulations: 8 Takeaways

November 16, 2017
Quebec’s Cannabis Regulations: 8 Takeaways(horstgerlach/iStock)
On Thursday, Quebec’s Liberal government tabled Bill 157, the legislation outlining the system of sale and distribution for legal cannabis in the province. Though Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois describes it as “an evolving plan” which is “not the end,” since “it is certain we will have to adapt,” some facts about it are now fixed.

A crown corporation will be created to sell cannabis products on behalf of the Government of Quebec.

The purpose of the legislation, reads the text of Bill 157, is “to prevent and reduce cannabis harm in order to protect the health and security of the public and of young persons in particular. The Act also aims to ensure the preservation of the cannabis market’s integrity.” Certainly the law’s ability to do that will be up for debate, as critics are already attacking what they see as the legislation’s faults.

Here are eight of the most important factors introduced by Bill 157.

1. The legal age for consumption of cannabis in Quebec will be 18, which was previously semi-confirmed by Liberal government sources in late September. This is in line with the recommendation of the Canadian Pediatric Society, which acknowledges that THC can be harmful to a child’s brain development, but underlines that the brain develops much less between the ages of 18 and 21.

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2. A crown corporation, the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQC), will be created to sell cannabis products on behalf of the Government of Quebec. The SQS will be administered as a subsidiary of the Société des Alcohols du Québec (SAQ), which distributes alcohol in the province. However, SAQ storefront outlets primarily sell wine and spirits, since lower-alcohol content beverages (beer, wine, and malt liquor products) are legal for sale in grocery stores and dépanneurs. The SQS will be the sole body permitted to sell cannabis products under law. It will also be the only organization allowed to buy, transport, and store cannabis from licensed commercial producers. No forms of cannabis will be approved for sale privately.

Quebec will begin by opening only 20 cannabis storefronts across the province.

3. Though Quebec has a population of 8.3-million, the SQC will begin by opening only 20 storefront locations across the province for the sale of cannabis. However, cannabis will also be available for sale online, provided that it is delivered by Canada Post and signed for by someone of legal age. By contrast, alcohol is available in 406 SAQ outlet locations across Quebec. Unlike SAQ outlets, the 20 SQC storefront locations will not allow minors to enter. No cannabis products in SQC will be accessible to customers without employees handing them over, and no cannabis products are to be made visible from outside the outlets. Each SQC outlet must install a sign on or close to its door including a warning from the Minister of Health “concerning the harmful effects of cannabis on health.”

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4. While the law does not explicitly outlaw edible cannabis products (in fact acknowledging the possibility of “edible and non-edible” products being subject to government regulation), it does criminalize any attempt to modify the flavour, aroma, or colour of cannabis products. (Au revoir, flavored vape pens.)

5. Despite federal law allowing home-growing of up to four plants of no more than one metre in height, home-growing of cannabis for personal use will remain outlawed in Quebec, and all commercial growing of cannabis will remain illegal except in companies licensed by the government.

Smoking cannabis will be legal in palliative care hospices with designated smoking areas.

6. Smoking or vaping cannabis will be illegal wherever smoking tobacco is illegal under Quebec law, limiting cannabis consumption  more or less to private homes, as well as unenclosed public parks. Also off-limits are obvious locations such as schools and child-care facilities, as well as pubs, taverns, bars, bingo halls, and “enclosed spaces where sports, cultural or artistic activities, or similar activities are held.” However, smoking or vaping cannabis will be legal in palliative care hospices with designated smoking areas. Fines for smoking or vaping cannabis in “an enclosed space” other than a private residence will range from $500 to $1,500, while fines for those who do so in an enclosed space that is also an educational institution or child-care facility will range from $750 to $2,250.

7. There will be “zero tolerance” for driving under the influence of cannabis. Police will be able to take saliva samples from drivers and potentially impound vehicles for up to 90 days if any presence of cannabis or other drugs is detected in drivers’ saliva. However, there is no ready means available to measure blood-cannabis levels, and recent studies suggest no reliable means exist for exact measures of cannabis intoxication such as are available for alcohol.

Quebec repeated its demand to the federal government to delay the deadline for cannabis legislation at least one more year.

8. On Wednesday, in the leadup to tabling Quebec’s cannabis legislation, the Liberal government of Premier Philippe Couillard repeated its demand to the federal government to delay the deadline for cannabis legislation at least one more year. Health Minister Lucie Charlebois and Finance Minister Carlos Leitao declared that the provincial government would not accept a 50/50 split of cannabis tax revenues with the federal government, and Charlebois argued the two governments needed more time to figure out how to divide cannabis tax revenues. Ottawa previously ignored a similar request by the Quebec government in June.

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image

Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse B. Staniforth is the editor of the free cannabis-industry
newsletter WeedWeek Canada. He also reports on Indigenous issues,
cybersecurity, and food safety.

View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles

  • Dante-the-cat

    Pretty Draconian. I’d stay underground.

  • Alex710420

    Not surprising from Quebec. Minors allowed to go into stores where alcohol is sold, yet not where cannabis is sold. Quebec is promoting the myths of how dangerous cannabis is, while ignoring how inherently dangerous liquor is. Bravo Quebec, here’s a slow hand clap for you.

    • Turner Kayston

      Well said!

      Additionally, that ‘drug’ is also sold in grocery store in Quebec and children are subjected to it like it’s a normal part of life, being a necessity along with food…

      Then of course, it’s everywhere else too including family gatherings (because they need their recreational only drug around kids) and on adverts everywhere.

  • Rob Woodside

    Both Ontario and Quebec and the federal Liberals either have Reefer Madness or are pandering to the Reefer Madness Crew. They are taking a punitive position to legalization. This is no way to bring in the black market and make it legal. The cops will still be wasting money making sure no one is growing or there’s no more than four 4 foot plants, as well as the rest of the stupid regulations they are imposing!!!
    The courts dragged Harper kicking and screaming into legalizing medical marijuana and it’s going to take the courts to clean up the mess the Reefer Madness Crew are creating under Trudeau.
    I’m amused at the $10/ gram price that’s being touted as low enough to break the black market. That made sense 2 years ago when the Parliamentary Budget Office first looked at this. Now in response the black market is selling good dope for just over $5/ gm. The punitive attitude will just keep the black market going!

    • Turner Kayston

      $10/gram and it’s all mass produced, inferior, machine trimmed, irradiated, chemically fertilized, pesticide infused & marinated Cannabis, not including tax.

      It’s insane…

  • Phil43014

    20 “SQC” who will probably be open like 4 hours per day, 3 days per week or something lame like that, and a government website… it seems ordering online from BC will still be much easier for the same price if not cheaper.

    • Turner Kayston

      They’re goals are also to be to ‘discourage’ people from consuming this infinitely less harmful substance than alcohol… I guess instead, direct they’ll point their finger in the direction of the SAQ (alcohol), where…

      “You can walk into a liquor store with enough alcohol in a 26 oz bottle to kill you, and a child…”, as seen on YouTube video 1nZhy77RtNg by Don Davies of the NDP.