On September 3, 2019, the Quebec Superior Court (QSC) ruled that the Quebec government’s laws banning the possession and cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use were unconstitutional. The Quebec government enacted the laws in response to the federal Cannabis Act, which came into force in October 2018, and permits Canadians to possess and to grow up to four cannabis plants in their home for recreational use. Quebec’s ban was challenged on federalism grounds, such that the provisions were an invalid exercise of the provincial jurisdiction over health and safety and were an infringement on the federal power over criminal law.
Given that the provinces and territories are responsible for overseeing the production, distribution, and use of cannabis, the Quebec government overreached by enacting laws banning the growth and possession of cannabis plants at home. The government stated that the purpose behind the laws was to protect the health and safety of the population by controlling the quality and access of cannabis. Ultimately, the Court held that the provincial powers are not broad enough to support an outright prohibition on cannabis cultivation, but rather are intended to supervise the activity that Parliament had decriminalized. The province had overstepped the line between provincial and federal authority.
Will this decision have implications for the rest of Canada?
Time will tell.
The QSC’s decision may still be appealed, given that the ruling addresses significant issues in constitutional law. If the decision survives appeal, similar legislation in Manitoba, which bans the possession and cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use, could be susceptible to constitutional challenge as well. In the meantime, residents of Quebec can officially possess and grow their cannabis plants in the comfort of their homes – at least until the provincial government decides to appeal and can ask that the contested provisions remain in force pending the appeal judgment.
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