Quebec calls for one year delay on legal marijuana

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The Quebec government moved to harsh Ottawa’s buzz on Wednesday, asking that the federal government postpone its marijuana legalization plan by a year.

A motion introduced by the Coalition Avenir Quebec and supported by the Liberals and the PQ called for the date of legalization to be moved to July 1, 2019.

“We're asking for a delay of one year. Right now, we're not ready. We're not ready for such an important change in our society,” said CAQ leader Francois Legault.

 

Quebec Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois reiterated her stance that the federal legalization bill, which was introduced in April, is forcing the provinces to move too fast.

On Tuesday, she told the media that provinces been given little time to answer questions about cannabis’ distribution and sale, as well as policies regarding public awareness, public health costs and retraining police.

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Charlebois said the question of whether federal or provincial governments will fund legalization measures still has not been settled.

“If we had another year, that would allow us first to deal with the whole issue of funding that has not been settled,” she said.

Finance Minister Carlos Leitao also pointed to tax revenue from cannabis sales as another issue that has yet to be settled.

"My colleagues from Ontario and from Alberta are totally in line with this," he said. "We view that the taxation revenues should come almost entirely to the provinces because once the bill is in place or the bills are in place, the federal and the provincial, the costs are going to be incurred by the provinces, not by the federal government, so why should the federal government have any additional revenues?”

However, the Quebec government is expected to introduce its bill for legalization on Thursday. The bill would create the future Societé Quebecoise du Cannabis, the government-run stores that would sell marijuana, and would also clarify the legalities of production, sale and use.

The PQ said it fears the federal timeline is more about politics than pot.

“The federal government is very irresponsible here. The federal government is more in an electoral system than in a public health and security system,” said public health critic Sylvain Page.

Among the concerns the bill will address is how to enforce laws on driving under the influence of cannabis. Transport Minister Andre Fortin said the need to equip police officers with technology that can detect marijuana in a motorist's system is another reason why the provinces should be the primary recipients of any tax revenue on marijuana.

“We need to do training for our police officers, that's all part of the additional costs that the provinces have to incur,” he said.

Leitao said that the bill will likely need to be amended in the future.

“The bill is complete but it’s the first time this is being done,” he said. “Therefore, we have to be flexible enough to adapt as we go along. We’re not naïve; we know the black market will react to what we’re doing. So, we have to be able to adjust and evolve.”

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