Ottawa lawyer Tina Fraser says someone should invent an app called “Am I Breaking the Law?” to help Canadians navigate the confusion when recreational marijuana becomes legal.
Pot smokers could type in their age, location, the amount and type of marijuana they possess, where they bought it, and where they plan to consume it, then press a button to find out if they are in danger of being collared by police.
She’s not joking.
The federal government plans to legalize recreational marijuana across the country in July. But the provinces are in charge of key details, such as where people can buy pot, where they will be allowed to consume it and whether they will be able to grow a few plants at home.
As the provinces announce their plans, a patchwork of rules is emerging that could lead to some interesting situations, especially in cities like Ottawa that hug provincial borders.
Varying provincial rules might create cross-border shopping, predicts Fraser. But that is not clear because the rules are still being formulated, and municipalities may also jump in with regulations.
In Ontario and Quebec, residents have lived for decades with variances in liquor laws. In Ottawa, some 18-year-olds cross the bridge over the Ottawa River to Gatineau to drink in a province where that’s the legal age.
Some predict it will be the same for marijuana. Ontario has set the legal age of purchase at 19 while Quebec has chosen 18, both matching their legal drinking ages.
There are added twists with marijuana, however, because the two provinces have proposed different rules for where people can consume it.
You won’t be able to order marijuana in bars or restaurants in either province. But Quebec’s proposed legislation would allow people to smoke pot in most places where cigarettes are allowed, with a few extra restrictions, such as a prohibition on smoking pot on the campuses of post-secondary institutions. The law would appear to allow people to smoke cannabis on the street and at events such as outdoor festivals, said Élaine Léger, an associate with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin in Montreal.