Pubdate: Thu, 16 Nov 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Philip Authier
Page: A1


Bill will be tabled - and campaign on dangers launched - Thursday

Conceding it won't be perfect and more time would help, the Couillard
government is to table its long-awaited framework law on Thursday
outlining how the legalization of cannabis will work in Quebec.

"Would it be better if we had an additional year? I think so," Lucie
Charlebois, the minister of rehabilitation, youth protection, public
health and healthy living, told reporters Wednesday.

An extension would give her colleague, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao,
the time to finalize negotiations with Ottawa over the distribution of
future tax revenues.

And Quebec's police could better prepare for the problems they believe
will follow legalization.

The minister made the remarks in reaction to a Coalition Avenir Quebec
motion calling on the federal government to delay the legalization of
marijuana by one year, to July 1, 2019. Members of the legislature
spent the afternoon Wednesday debating the motion.

Charlebois conceded the delay is unlikely to be granted - the
provinces have already been refused twice - and Quebec will be
prepared one way or another.

On Wednesday, she advised the legislature of her plan to table a pot
bill Thursday. According to the official order paper, the bill - "An
act to constitute the Societe quebecois du cannabis" - will enact the
province's new Cannabis Regulation Act.

Although the detailed content of the bill will only be available
Thursday, certain elements are already known:

The legal age to buy and consume cannabis in Quebec will be 18; in
neighbouring Ontario, it will be 19.

The government will maintain strict control over the distribution and
sales of the product, setting up stores across Quebec to sell the
product on site. The sales operation will be handled by the Societe
des alcools (SAQ). Ontario has opted for a similar system. There it
will be the LCBO running the show, which will be operating 150
stand-alone stores.

There have been reports the SAQ will handle online sales,

You will not be allowed to grow it at home.

The government will have zero tolerance for driving under the
influence, although the jury is out on how it will measure the level
of the drug in the driver's system.

The government is expected to model the rules governing consumption on
existing tobacco regulations, which means citizens would have to
respect a certain distance from public buildings and bars.

There are reports consumption will be banned on CEGEP and university


Quebec is entering the pot business reluctantly. None of the political
parties campaigned with plans to legalize weed in the last election.

And a round of consultations conducted by the government revealed
Quebecers are more conservative about the idea than was originally

Like the other provinces, Quebec has found itself scrambling to
prepare the terrain for the legalization because the federal Liberals
made it one of their central election promises.

The federal pot bill, C-45, which legalizes consumption and possession
of cannabis, is still being studied by a House of Commons committee,
but the Trudeau government wants to adopt it in time for cannabis to
be legal in Canada by July 1, 2018.

The provinces feel that while Ottawa gets the glory of announcing the
policy, they have inherited the costs and trouble of applying it. The
list of negatives is long, from policing and social costs to the many
unknowns on the health side.

On Wednesday at the same news conference, Leitao returned to the
taxation question, repeating he and his provincial colleagues believe
almost all the taxation revenue should come back to Quebec and the
other provinces.

"Why should the federal government have any additional revenues when
they have very few additional costs," Leitao asked.


So far, Ottawa has only offered to split the revenue from the excise
tax it plans to impose on weed. Charlebois's bill is not expected to
deal with that aspect of the issue. The government will handle pricing
issues with regulations later.

The subject will be discussed at the next federal-provincial meeting
of finance ministers in Ottawa on Dec. 12. Last week, Ottawa indicated
pot revenues could total as much as $1 billion for the whole country.

"We are not even at the beginning of the start of discussions with
Ottawa on this question," Leitao said.

But there are still many questions. Quoting studies that show cannabis
use can affect the evolution of young brains, the Coalition Avenir
Quebec opposition on Wednesday again called on the government to set
the legal age at 21.

CAQ Leader Francois Legault repeated his view Quebec is going too

"We're not ready for such an important change in our society," Legault

In response to concerns, Charlebois is expected to launch a massive
public education campaign warning youth of the dangers of consumption
at the same time she tables her bill.
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