Article by Les Perreaux, The Globe and Mail
Quebec will have zero tolerance for driving while high and grow-your-own marijuana under a plan for the use and sale of cannabis that highlights the provincial government’s discomfort with legalization.
Under draft legislation introduced on Thursday, the province’s Liberal government would authorize police to test saliva samples from drivers and allow police to immediately suspend the licence of anyone driving with a trace of cannabis or illicit drugs for 90 days.
The measure goes a step further than Ontario’s plan, which has proposed stiffer penalties for commercial drivers and those under 21 years of age who drive while under the influence of cannabis.
Polls show Quebeckers are more uneasy than most Canadians with legalized marijuana. On Wednesday, the Quebec government asked Ottawa to extend the July 1, 2018, deadline for legalization. The unveiling of Bill 172 on Thursday provided more evidence that the Quebec government would have preferred to avoid having to legalize cannabis.
“There are people who consume cannabis. We can’t avoid it. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist,” said Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois, the Liberal in charge of the legalization file.
“The proposed measures aim to limit risk and mischief linked to abuse of this substance and to fight the trivialization of this product. We will be prudent and restrictive from the start.”
While Ottawa’s federal draft legislation legalizing marijuana would allow people to grow small amounts, Quebec will continue to outlaw growing pot at home. Enforcing allowable sizes and limits would be a nightmare, the minister said.
A government agency, the Société québécoise du cannabis, will have exclusive legal control of recreational use, selling the product through a limited number of storefronts and online. The province will have 15 stores ready by July 1 and up to 150 in two years.
Quebec hasn’t had a proliferation of pot dispensaries like British Columbia and Ontario, where scores of storefronts have popped up in recent years, making conflict with small-business owners less likely. Head shops will still be allowed to sell accessories, but not pot.