Yesterday, the Quebec government unveiled its plan for regulating marijuana post-legalization. Anyone expecting a progressive, functional framework that would benefit both the government and individual citizens, you’re out of luck.
Quebec’s regulatory framework for legalized marijuana is beyond restrictive, and even a bit short-sighted. The proposed guidelines may actually infringe on the rights of citizens, not provide more liberties as one would think.
Let’s begin with one of the first bits of information to crop up a few days before Quebec’s official draft bill on marijuana was tabled: the Société québécoise du cannabis.
Under the umbrella of the Quebec’s liquor board, the SQC will function similarly to an SAQ, but for marijuana.
Granting selling-power of marijuana to a standing government body that already regulated a controlled substance isn’t much of a surprise. Some form sort of government-regulated marijuana retailer was expected. How else will Quebec rake in all of that sweet marijuana money?
The stores themselves aren’t an issue (and the fact that you can order marijuana online, then delivered to your door is actually pretty useful) but rather who’s going to be working in them. Mandatory criminal background checks will be performed on all Société québécoise du cannabis workers, which, counterintuitively, isn’t really a good thing.
Many long-time marijuana industry experts have some sort of criminal background, usually linked to possession charges. These individuals, arguably the best suited to sell marijuana given their experience and insight, will be barred from doing so all because of soon-to-be-outdated possession charges.
I would personally rather have a person with decades of experience in the marijuana industry selling me cannabis, even if they have a drug charge or two, than some old white lady who has never smoked in her life. It’s an experience thing. You wouldn’t trust a wine pairing from a 14-year-old who steals beer from his parent’s basement fridge, would you?
Issues relating to how marijuana will be sold in Quebec wouldn’t be so polarizing if Quebecers could actually grow their own cannabis.
But, no, even though the federal government is allowing Canadians to have up to four marijuana plants in their household, the Quebec government is making cannabis grown-at-home strictly illegal.
Why, exactly, would Quebec take such a firm stance that’s in direct opposition to what will eventually be federal legislation?
There’s no real answer. The outcome remains the same: Quebecers will be barred from a civil liberty afforded to every other Canadian because of… reasons?
Thinking about it, the “no plants at home” rule is probably money-related. Quebec can’t collect tax on cannabis you grow on your own, after all.
Whatever the Quebec government’s reasoning, the zero-tolerance stance on growing marijuana at home may bite them back in the long run.
Depending on the quality of marijuana offered at the SQC (and the price, right now the government is setting a gram at anywhere from $7 to $10), people may just turn to the black market since they can’t grow at home.
Where cannabis can be smoked is another major problem. Basically, marijuana is going to be treated like cigarettes, with the same prohibitions enforced. Anywhere you can/can’t smoke tobacco, the same goes for cannabis.
At first, equating tobacco to cannabis seems reasonable. Both produce smoke that some citizens may find unpleasant or irritating. But marijuana isn’t tobacco, and smoking a joint isn’t like smoking a cigarette.
For one thing, there aren’t the same health risks. Marijuana doesn’t cause cancer. Still, the long-term health effects of marijuana, especially on young people, is up for debate, making a restriction on where you can smoke weed somewhat sensical.
Quebec, however, is missing out on some major entrepreneurial opportunities by vilifying marijuana to the same degree as cigarettes. Marijuana cafes or bakeries, bars, restaurants, and lounges are all out the window, commercial enterprises that could rake in quite a bit of cash and boost the local economy of towns and cities in Quebec.
Of course, no one would dare smoke a joint with dinner at a restaurant given the police-state-level law Quebec is proposing in regards to driving with marijuana in your system.
Now, let’s make it clear here: driving while high is not a good idea. Some people say they’re better driving stoned, but for the most part, marijuana can make drivers less responsive and more easily distracted, which is altogether dangerous.
But there’s a difference between driving high as a kite and having marijuana in your system. Smoke a joint, get stoned, and a couple of hours later (or far less, depending on your tolerance level) you’re pretty much good to go, with your mind back to normal.
Well after your brain gets back to ground, however, you’ll still have THC in your system. That stuff lingers. So even if you’re not even remotely high, a roadside test for marijuana will likely come back positive.
Under Quebec’s proposed legislation, this is cause for serious concern. The province is planning to enact a “zero tolerance” regulation for marijuana while driving.
A police officer will have the right to pull over anyone they suspect could be driving stoned and once them to take a saliva test. If any, and that means even the smallest, trace amount of marijuana is in the driver’s system, it could lead to a 90-day license suspension and a fine.
Yes, if the police officer feels like it, they can basically take away your license just for having marijuana in your system. Again, cannabis lingers in your body, so if you smoked at noon and were pulled over at 7PM, you can still be found “high” and have your license taken away.
It’s kind of scary to think about, especially for regular smokers who tend to always have a baseline-level of marijuana in their system.
So congratulations, Quebec, you turned what could have been a radical and progressive piece of legislation into a bill that basically infringes on the freedoms of citizens. In some ways, this proposed bill (thankfully, nothing is set in stone and things could still change) makes marijuana even more illegal than it was before.
Where are we, Ontario?