Quebec Superior Court Justice Manon Lavoie has ruled that the CAQ government’s ban on growing cannabis at home is unconstitutional, due to it technically falling under federal criminal legislation.
As of Sept. 3, 2019 Quebeckers looking to cultivate their own cannabis at home could do so, though “the province has up to 30 days to [appeal] the ruling,” said Avi Levy, a lawyer specializing in cannabis infractions and permits.
“Once they go into appeal and if the appeal is granted to the province, it would mean that the first judgment is overturned and it would therefore make it illegal again to grow plants,” said Levy.
The CAQ put the ban in place this past June, and Levy said that all it really took was for one person to challenge the ruling in court to overturn it, since this legislation is federal along with the rights granted to all Canadians under the Cannabis Act.
However, Levy suggested that nobody run out and start planting just yet.
While the province could decide to let this specific legislation fall to the wayside because it was unconstitutional, it does not stop them from creating new legislation that could be done in a more “roundabout way.”
According to Kira London-Nadeau, national chair of grassroots organization Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), Justice Lavoie made a “good, sound decision,” in overturning the ban.
“The main strength of this decision in shifting to lift the ban is in coherence with [the] rest of the provinces, except for Manitoba. It also has the advantage of being coherent with our resolutions in Quebec around alcohol and homebrewing for example,” said London-Nadeau.
Since the Crown corporation Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) is the only source for legal cannabis in the province, London-Nadeau says a lift of the ban makes cannabis more accessible for Quebeckers, while reducing costs for consumers.
While the Trudeau government’s intentions with the Cannabis Act were in part to see an end to the underground cannabis economy, as of May, according to Statistics Canada’s National Cannabis Survey, 38% of consumers were still buying off the street due to accessibility, cost, and convenience.
Statistics Canada had clocked illicit sales at approximately $6.37 per gram opposed to the provincial average of $9.99 per gram.
Because cannabis has become a legal substance, London-Nadeau said that its regulation should be on par with the regulation of other substances like alcohol.
“I would say one of the main themes around this legislation in Quebec has been this incoherence with our alcohol laws and also on the research side, the recognition of proportional harm of alcohol [versus] cannabis,” said London-Nadeau.
While she admits they are completely different substances that have different implications, the regulations can’t really be “copy, paste.” Certain core principals like legal age should be harmonious throughout the country.
And since legal age isn’t harmonious, there are regions like Ottawa-Gatineau where teens cross the provincial border to buy alcohol because they can at 18 instead of 19.
While London-Nadeau sees Quebec’s rigidity with cannabis laws as a violation of Quebecker’s rights and freedoms, she said that the province implementing a greater “prohibition” on drugs can cause even more issues.
“It is this idea that one, you can control what the population does through legislation; and two, that this is protective. We have seen this time and time again. The negative consequences of something being illegal often outweighs that practice itself,” said London-Nadeau.