• James Armstrong

Sorting out the legal maze of lawfully consuming Cannabis in Canada


As the Cannabis Act of Canada came into effect on Wednesday, October 17, consumers of the product will have to sort out the myriad levels of legislation pertaining to the act if they intend to stay on the right side of the law.

Local municipal response

In response to the legalization of cannabis, the Town of Saint-Lazare issued a press release on Tuesday, October 9 in an effort to clarify certain aspects of the new law. It reiterates the provincial and federal regulations noting that smoking pot is prohibited in all parks, recreational trails, athletic tracks, and outdoor pools. Playgrounds for children, including water games, sports fields, tennis courts and skating rinks, are included in the extensive list. In general, smoking the substance is not permitted within nine metres of public buildings, on the property of child care and day care centres, preschools, elementary and secondary schools including adult education centers and vocational training centers. It is also not allowed on the terraces of restaurants and bars.

According to the press release, Saint-Lazare has been informed the installation of a cannabis point of sale is not expected at this time.

Vaudreuil-Dorion, on the other hand, approved the installation of two cannabis-growing facilities in specific zones within its industrial areas in May 2018 as reported in the May 10, 2018 edition of The Journal. According to Mayor Guy Pilon, the intention is to isolate the facilities away from residential and commercial areas. As for an SQC outlet opening in the city, the mayor has expressed his displeasure with the outlet, as have residents. According to recent media reports, Vaudreuil-Dorion also intends to maintain its laws regarding the consumption of cannabis in public places.

Cannabis act summary

According to a brief summary of the act mailed to Canadian residents by the federal government, the goal is to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.

Briefly, the legal age to buy, use or possess cannabis is 18 or 19 or older, depending on the province or territory and there are strict penalties for selling or providing cannabis to persons under the legal age. If you are purchasing the product, legal cannabis has an excise stamp in different colours indicating the province and territory. Keep in mind, driving while impaired by the substance is a criminal offence and it is illegal to take cannabis across the Canadian border. Under the Cannabis Act, those authorized by their healthcare practitioners to use cannabis for medical purposes will continue to have access to the product.

Understanding local laws

In Quebec, the former Liberal government consulted with experts and the public to constitute the Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQC) to enact the Cannabis Regulation Act and amend the highway safety code. The provincial law provides a framework for the possession and use of cannabis in public and private places. For example, the amount of dried cannabis that an adult individual of legal age may possess in a public place is 30 grams and in a private residence the limit is 150 grams regardless of the number of persons of full age who live in that residence. Cultivating cannabis for personal use is totally prohibited, as is the possession of a cannabis plant. In Quebec, smoking or vaping cannabis is not permitted in any place where tobacco smoking is prohibited with specific additions concerning healthcare institutions, college level institutions and universities, bicycle paths, and shared transportation waiting areas.

Parks Canada campsites

In national campgrounds, cannabis consumption will be limited to the visitor’s campsite, according to the Parks Canada website. However, consumption is not permitted in campground common areas such as kitchen shelters, playgrounds, washrooms, trails, or roads. Parks Canada also notes that provincial, territorial and municipal legislation concerning cannabis applies to national parks, historic sites, marine conservation areas and Rouge National Urban Park.

Where to buy pot

The sale of legal cannabis comes under the purview of the SQC with a reported opening of 20 outlets across the province. The SQC will also sell cannabis online in a responsible and secure manner. The SQC is a wholly owned, independently run subsidiary of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). As of Wednesday, October 17, the SQC announced it would open 12 locations ranging from Québec City, Trois-Rivières, Lévis, and Drummondville to Mascouche. Montreal will have three locations, one at Peel and Sainte-Catherine Streets, another on Boulevard de l’Acadie and a third on Saint-Hubert Street in Rosemont-Petite-Patrie. Profits from the sale of cannabis will be given to the Cannabis Prevention and Research Fund.

For detailed information regarding Quebec cannabis regulations, consult www.encadrementcannabis.gouv.qc.ca.


The problem facing local municipal governments is the enforcement of the laws surrounding the legalization of cannabis. Most cities and towns, such as Vaudreuil-Dorion and Saint-Lazare do not have their own municipal police forces. They rely on the services of the Sûreté du Québec to patrol their areas. As one cartoon recently posted on social media described it, smoking pot used to be so much simpler.

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