When the time came for Quebec to pass its version of cannabis legalization, the opposition Parti Quebecois wanted tighter controls and voted against the legislation.
Despite the divisions, Quebec Liberal Party Premier Phillipe Couillard’s government in June 2018 passed Bill 157 enacting the Cannabis Regulation Act, establishing the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) to oversee sale and distribution, and amending highway safety standards.
Although cannabis supporters decried some of the more restrictive measures, such as the prohibition of home growing and the few stores, all owned by the government, where cannabis will be available initially, Quebec announced it would be ready for legalization on October 17, 2018.
Even with the constraints, Quebec was more permissive in some respects than other provinces or territories, allowing more consumption in public areas and adopting a minimum age of 18 to purchase or use cannabis. All other provinces except Alberta enacted the federal government’s 19-year-old limit.
The opposition parties had argued, among other things, for more limits on public consumption and the Coalition Avenir Quebec had lobbied for a 21-year-old age limit.
Despite a reputation as a party province, Quebecers have a more moderate streak when it comes to cannabis. Consumption in the province is in the middle of the pack among the provinces, but a CROP, Inc. poll by Radio Canada found only 46 percent of the population favored cannabis legalization, compared with 58 percent nationally.
As part of its bill legalizing recreational marijuana, the province imposed a number of highway safety amendments that include a “zero-tolerance” policy for driving with any detectable amounts of cannabis or alcohol in the body once effective equipment for detecting cannabis in saliva is available and approved. Limited exceptions may be made for medical marijuana users.
Police can immediately suspend licenses for 90 days if their evaluation shows drug and/or alcohol impairment, or if a driver refuses testing. Vehicles can be seized if operators have past convictions for drugs or alcohol. Drivers can also face fines of $1,500 to $5,000, installation of an interlock device, and other penalties, including jail time, for operating a vehicle under the influence.
Under federal guidelines, drivers face graduated penalties depending on levels of drug and/or alcohol concentrations, as well as previous offenses.
Federally, the legal limit for THC in the bloodstream is two nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Concentrations between two (2) and five (5) nanograms result in a fine up to $1,000. Concentrations of five (5) or more nanograms will result in a $1,000 minimum fine for a first offense, imprisonment of 30 days or more for a second offense, and imprisonment of 120 days or more for a third offense. Penalties for drug-impaired driving accidents can range from 18 months to as much as life imprisonment for a fatal crash.
How to Purchase
When legalization takes effect, consumers in Quebec will only be able to purchase recreational cannabis through stores and online through the public SQDC website.
The Quebec government will have control, operate, and distribute all legal cannabis in the province. The SQDC plans to have 20 stores open by Oct. 17, 2018 with expansion to possibly 100 or more within three (3) years. The SDQC also announced that it would have an online purchasing platform up and running by the time the new laws go into effect.
According to media reports the first four store locations in Montreal will be located near the busy Berri-UQÀM, Radisson, Jean-Talon and Lionel-Groulx Métro stations.
Minors will not be allowed inside, and stores will be stand-alone, cannabis-only operations with about 150 products. Displays will not be visible to passers-by and stores must be at least 250 meters, or about 820 feet, from schools. In Montreal, the distance is 150 meters, or about 492 feet.
Customers are permitted to buy a maximum of 30 grams, or 1.6 ounces of dried cannabis at one time, or equivalents in fresh cannabis and cannabis oils.
Premade edibles and extract will not be available until the federal government authorizes such through legislation that they anticipate having in place on or before October 17, 2019, although consumers can create their own edibles as they wish.
Employees will be required to pass government-sponsored cannabis training programs.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Smoking will generally be allowed in places where tobacco smoking and vaping are allowed. It will be allowed in private residences and rentals unless prohibited by lease or property agreements. Landlords will have until January 17, 2019 to put cannabis restrictions into leases.
Consuming cannabis in public is not allowed in most restaurants, bars, hospitals, schools, bus shelters, bike paths or sports facilities. Smoking is also banned on and within nine (9) meters, or 29 1/2 feet, of areas frequented by children, such as playgrounds or pools. It is worth noting that public parks that don’t serve as playgrounds will permit consumption of cannabis as they allow consumption of tobacco products.
It is illegal to consume cannabis while operating a vehicle for either drivers or passengers. The law applies regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion. In a vehicle, cannabis must be stored in a sealed container that is not accessible to the driver or passengers during transport.
Possession Information and Limits
The minimum age to buy or possess cannabis in Quebec is 18, which is the same age for alcohol and tobacco within the province. Quebec allows possession by adults of up to 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of cannabis in most public places.
Possession is banned at day-care centers, in most buildings, and school and college campuses. Possession is also banned in detention facilities.
The national government has set equivalencies for one (1) gram of dried cannabis to equal:
- five (5) grams of fresh cannabis
- 15 grams, or one-half ounce (0.5 oz) of edibles
- 70 milliliters, or 2.35 fluid ounces, of liquid
- 0.25 grams of concentrate, and
- one (1) plant seed
The limit for home possession is 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces, per household, regardless of the number of occupants. Additionally, a person may not possess more than 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces, combined among public places and multiple residences.
By federal law, patients using medical marijuana are allowed to have up to 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces — 30 times the daily dose prescribed by an authorized health-care practitioner, either an authorized physician or nurse practitioner — of dried marijuana or its equivalent.
to Be to Consume?
Quebec does not allow any cultivation of cannabis for personal use. Quebec also prohibits possession of a cannabis plant for personal use. These regulations do not apply for approved and licensed home-grown medical marijuana, which is governed by national laws.
Thousands of Canadians are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana. Until the new law is passed, Canadians must the qualify for the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which came into effect August 24, 2016.
Recipients must provide medical documentation confirming the diagnosis by a health-care practitioner.
Patients must not be convicted of a marijuana-related offense, and be registered only once at a time.
Generally, patients can qualify for medical marijuana under two categories. One is to allow for compassionate end-of-life care, for alleviating pain symptoms relating to illnesses and injuries, or for side effects from cancer or HIV/AIDS medications. The second category is for patients suffering from other persistent debilitating symptoms. Among the ailments Health Canada lists as possibly qualifying are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Back and neck conditions
- Brain injury
- Chronic nausea
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure, including patients receiving dialysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Vehicular crashes
Information on eligibility and applying is available at the Canadian government’s medical marijuana website.
Authorized caregivers are allowed to possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil, and may transfer or administer the substances or provide a medical document. They may also transfer substances to an individual who is responsible for the patient under their professional treatment.
This page was last updated on October 15, 2018.