Legalization of cannabis: a lot of headaches for the citizens

Légalisation du cannabis: bien des maux de tête pour les citoyens

While Quebec has decided to ban cannabis everywhere where smoking is prohibited smoking, the list of cities that are going to have a regulation even more restrictive — where alcohol is banned in all outdoor public places — is growing.

The citizens must be well informed : when they travel from one municipality to another, the rules may be different. They will be able to consume cannabis on the sidewalks of a city, but not in the neighbor.

Starting next week, the cannabis recreational is legal in Canada and can be purchased in a store near you.

In anticipation of this legalization, the government of québec adopted, in June the Law governing cannabis (formerly known as bill 157) which establishes, in particular, where it will be allowed to use cannabis. Basically, according to this law, smoking marijuana will be prohibited in the same places as tobacco. It will therefore be allowed to smoke in the street, but not in the shops, bars and restaurants, no more than on the grounds of colleges and universities, and on bike paths.

Law “too permissive”

But several municipalities have found that this legislation is too permissive. They want to rather prohibit them on the same basis as alcohol. Many of them have consulted their people about it.

In short, when the date of the legalization will happen, they do not want to see cannabis in public places on their territory, such as parks, streets and sidewalks, alleys, and dog parks. Also prohibits being in a state of intoxication caused by the consumption of drugs in a public place.

Among municipalities of over 50 000 inhabitants to adopt this approach more hard, we find Quebec, Drummondville, Sherbrooke, Lévis, Saguenay, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Jérôme, Repentigny, Granby, Blainville. Some of them have already adopted their municipal regulations in view of the October 17, and others have made known their intentions in this sense.

Other municipalities of this size prefer to defer to the quebec act. This is the case of Trois-Rivières, Laval, Gatineau and Montreal.

And others have not yet decided : Terrebonne, Brossard, Saint-Hyacinthe give themselves the time to think about it.

The power to go so far away?

Can municipalities go so far in their prohibitions?

Yes, according to a lawyer specializing in municipal law Isabelle Landry : the municipalities have the power to do so and be more severe than the government of Québec. Not according to the new powers granted by the Law regulating the cannabis, but, by virtue of their general powers to ensure “the peace, order, good government and general well-being of the population”.

However, they cannot be more permissive, ” adds the expert, who works at the firm BCF.

It considers the parallel with the alcohol well illustrates the situation : “The alcohol, it is legal in Quebec, but we did not have the right to drink in public places or to be intoxicated in public. It is definitely up there as will a number of municipalities.”

But citizens might find themselves without any place to consume cannabis when it will be legal : not in the street, not in bars or restaurants, and sometimes not even at home, because many landlords prohibit it in their leases.

But to Me, Landry believes that it would be difficult for them to allege that the municipalities are excessive and to challenge their rules and regulations — these restrictions are within the limits of the law, the judge does it. With regard to the prohibitions in the housing, this is not their jurisdiction.

For it, the problem may be elsewhere.

“Me, my question is : how municipalities are going to be done to disseminate it. The citizens are going to perhaps see it in the municipal newsletter, but the visitors, themselves, will know how as they are not allowed to smoke on the sidewalk?” asks the expert. Will there be a sign indicating the prohibition to the entrance of the city? Will there be signs at every 200 meters for parking?

“It may be that the problem of municipalities : how to make that work.”

No one is supposed to ignore the law, pointed out, however, the lawyer who points out that this will not be a defence to the offence of smoking in places where cannabis is prohibited.

And then, the rules will be different from one municipality to the other, ” she warns.

Different in Montreal

In Montreal, it could even be different from one borough to the other, while some have already expressed their desire to restrict the cannabis on the streets and even undertaken steps in this direction.

This is one of the reasons why some municipalities are still in the process of thinking. Saint-Hyacinthe, for example, will take a position in the next few weeks, because she wants to have a regulation in harmony with the other cities of the MRC, said a spokesman.

But the new government of the Coalition avenir Québec will perhaps relieve the municipalities of this task : it has already announced its intention to prohibit the consumption of cannabis in all the public places of the province.

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