Canada made cannabis legal in 2018 but that didn’t mean all provinces opted in on federal policies. Quebec passed its Cannabis Regulation Act not long after. According to the act itself, this piece of legislation serves “to prevent and reduce cannabis harm in order to protect health and security of the public.” The most noteworthy part of the act is that you can’t grow your own cannabis. Anyone who violates this clause will face fines of between $250 and $750. The bill has a bunch of other clauses too, like restrictions on advertising and places where to light up. There are some exceptions, of course. For example, if you’re growing weed for medical purposes, then you’re exempt from the act.
Unsurprisingly, the act has stirred controversy, and many deem it unconstitutional. In 2019, Janick Murray-Hall challenged the legality of the act, stating that it overreached on a purely federal matter. Murray-Hall’s challenge proved successful, as Quebec’s Superior Court sided with him. But then the Appeals Court reversed this decision, prompting Murray-Hall to bring the matter to Canada’s Supreme Court. This is where we now stand on Quebec’s cannabis situation. Sometime later, the Supreme Court will make its decision, and we can hopefully have some closure. But until then, we just have to wait it out a bit.
Provincial vs. Federal Jurisdiction and How the Supreme Court is Likely to Proceed with the Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act
You might be wondering where the Supreme Court will likely land on this issue. And to be honest, it’s quite difficult to say. Quebec’s cannabis regulation act exists because of how Canada divides up federal and provincial powers and duties. Provinces legislate and control anything of “local nature,” such as education and hospitals. For cannabis, this means provinces can determine how cannabis is sold, dispensary location and operations, and who has selling rights. Moreover, provinces can choose to add extra restrictions, like limiting personal cultivation. Again, this is where the debate is mostly centred around. Quebec didn’t just add restrictions, they outright banned personal cultivation. Is this constitutional or does it veer too far into federal jurisdiction? At this point, it’s for the Supreme Court to decide.
For a frame of reference, I live in British Columbia where these restrictions are a lot less stringent. Anyone over 19 can grow a certain number of cannabis plants at home. Comparatively, Quebec’s laws look much stricter. But this isn’t the first time Quebec has chosen to forge its own legal path. For example, they have used the notwithstanding clause 61 times, way more than the other provinces and territories combined. Underlying all this is the cultural difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada, a conversation that opens up again with these legal battles over weed.
What are your thoughts regarding Supreme Court review of Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act? Do you think Supreme Court will pass a favourable judgement for cannabis users? Please share your comments here and don’t forget to follow us @cannalifenet!