On November 16, 2017, the Québec government introduced Bill 157 - An Act to constitute the Société québécoise du cannabis, to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and to amend various highway safety-related provisions (the “Bill”). If passed, the Bill will regulate the sale, use and distribution of recreational cannabis in Québec upon the legalization of recreational cannabis by the federal government, which is expected to occur in July 2018.

The Bill provides a broad framework for the recreational cannabis market. The key elements of note are the following:

  • The Bill constitutes the Société québécoise du cannabis (“SQC”), a subsidiary of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), whose mission is to regulate the sale of cannabis from a health protection perspective in order to integrate consumers into the legal market without encouraging cannabis consumption.
  • The Bill enacts the Cannabis Regulation Act. The Cannabis Regulation Act contains various measures regarding cannabis possession and cultivation for personal purposes, including a prohibition against minors under the age of 18 purchasing and possessing cannabis, and a prohibition against cultivating cannabis for personal purposes. The Cannabis Regulation Act also, for the most part, prohibits cannabis smoking in the same places where tobacco use is prohibited. Furthermore, it confirms that only qualified cannabis producers that satisfy the stringent conditions determined by the federal government will be authorized to produce for commercial purposes in Québec. Individuals of legal age will be permitted to purchase up to 30 grams of cannabis during a single visit, with a total of 150 grams permitted to be in a single home at any given time.
  • The Cannabis Regulation Act establishes that, subject to certain exceptions, only the SQC may purchase from a cannabis producer, transport, store and sell cannabis.
  • The Cannabis Regulation Act specifies the rules applicable to cannabis promotion, advertising and packaging. The Cannabis Regulation Act gives the provincial government the power to enter into agreements with aboriginal communities for the purpose of adapting the matters within the scope of its provisions for the aboriginal population.
  • The Bill provides for a prohibition against any person driving or having the care or control of a road vehicle where there is a detectable presence of cannabis or any other drug in the person’s saliva.

Dentons' analysis

The proposed legislative framework established by the Bill provides, amongst other matters, a framework for the sale of recreational cannabis in the province of Québec. Québecers are generally perceived to be more conservative on legalization than the rest of Canada, which would likely explain why the sale of product is to be so closely controlled by the government (through the SQC) and not through a more privatized retail channel. This is further evidenced in the prohibition under the Bill against growing cannabis within the home for personal use. The federal legislation left the door open for individuals to be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants at home for their personal use.

It is no secret that the Québec government has many concerns regarding the proposed provincial legislation, including the enforcement of the eventual legislation. The Québec government has openly expressed a desire for more time to improve the legislation and to prepare for enforcement. Notwithstanding the Québec government’s concerns, it is highly likely that the sale and consumption of cannabis for recreational use will be legalized on July 1, 2018, as has been previously announced by the federal government.

As July 2018 draws closer, each of the provinces and territories will continue to rapidly formalize their respective frameworks for the regulation of recreational cannabis. Dentons’ leading Cannabis group will continue to work closely with policy makers, licensed producers and other key stakeholders and provide frequent insights on these important developments.