Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Giuseppe Valiante
Page: A1


Meanwhile, Alberta embraces private sector

MONTREAL * Forced into the pot business by the federal government,
Quebec on Thursday tabled strict marijuana legislation, striving to
give itself full control over the industry, push out the private
sector and create a zero-tolerance policy for driving under the
influence of all drugs.

"This is an important change to our society," Public Health Minister
Lucie Charlebois said after tabling Bill 157. "The experts recommended
we be prudent to start and then to see if we need to adjust. They
asked us to be rigorous and to see how citizens evolve."

On Thursday, Alberta also released its pot plans, which include
setting no limits on the number of private stores that can sell
cannabis once retail sales are legalized next July. The NDP government
said it would look to private retailers to sell marijuana from
brick-and-mortar storefronts, instead of government-run outlets.

Quebec has been reticent to go along with the federal government's
marijuana plan, citing concerns from citizens that legalizing pot
would encourage young people to pick up the habit and would foment
social problems.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised Canadians marijuana will be
legal by next July 1. But he has left it to the provinces to create
their own legal framework on how to enforce the law on their territory.

The toughness of Quebec's proposed law led to allegations that the
province was enforcing "prohibition."

Jodie Emery, marijuana activist and co-owner of the Cannabis Culture
chain, said, "This is the most restrictive model we've seen yet.

"It sounds just like prohibition. The model they're proposing will
ensure that others continue to be criminalized; it will deny Quebec
residents many of their different rights and freedoms." She objected
in particular to provisions that would bar people from having any
marijuana in their system while driving, and restrict the amount of
pot Quebecers could have in their homes, and would forbid any

"It's very disappointing because we know there is extremely high
demand for cannabis access in Quebec," Emery said.

Marc-Boris St-Maurice, a longtime pot activist and founder of the
Montreal Compassion Centre medical-marijuana dispensary, said, "Their
plan is still halfbaked."

He objected to Quebec's plan to conduct criminal background checks on
employees of the planned Societe quebecoise du cannabis, which will
have the monopoly over the purchase and sales of cannabis products.

"That's going to exclude a lot of people who have a lot expertise," he
said. "We're not talking about hardened, career criminals here; we're
talking about just average people who may have a record for cannabis

"Suddenly they're completely left out in the cold. I thought
legalization was actually supposed to help these people who suffered
at the hands of prohibition."

Quebec asked Ottawa several times to delay legalization by a year, but
to no avail.

Ontario was the first province to announce its detailed marijuana
plan, which included the sale of the drug in up to 150 stores by 2020
run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Charlebois said Quebec needed to act quickly to ensure its rules
applied to its citizens.

"We had no other option but to be ready," Charlebois said. "We don't
want others to regulate us."

Under the new bill, all cannabis cultivated in Quebec must be sold by
the government, through a subsidiary of the provincially run liquor
board, although the legislation gives the province flexibility to make

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said Quebec will open 15 marijuana
stores across the province by July 1 and will control sales online.

"We need to be flexible," he said, referring to the possibility of
opening more stores. "We will see how the market evolves.

"What's clear is that there will be no cannabis sold in regular liquor

It will also be illegal to cultivate cannabis for personal or
commercial use, unless authorized by the government.

People of legal age will be allowed to possess up to 150 grams of
cannabis in their home, and 30 grams on their person.

The bill forbids anyone under 18 years old from possessing cannabis
and prohibits anyone from consuming it where smoking tobacco is also

Bill 157 also introduces "a new principle of zero tolerance" regarding
drivers caught under the influence of marijuana or any other drug.

"It prohibits anyone from driving a vehicle ... or having control of a
vehicle if there is any detectable presence of cannabis or any other
drug in their saliva," Charlebois said.
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