The legal saga concerning the right of Quebecers to grow cannabis at home has just taken a new turn. It was legal for a while, then made illegal. The law declaring it illegal was contested all the way to the Supreme Court. However, we may be at the end of the story: the Supreme Court has upheld the Quebec government’s power to ban home-grown cannabis.
A long-awaited decision
The Supreme Court has just ruled that the Quebec government has the right to ban home-grown cannabis in Quebec. This is despite the fact that federal law allows people to grow up to four plants at home.
The decision was the final step in an application by a private citizen to contest the Quebec ban. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Quebec had the power to impose this ban or whether it was an exclusively federal power. The court ruled that Quebec does have this power.
Here’s how the saga unfolded…
First step: Legalization
Canada first legalized cannabis in 2018. With the legalization of cannabis, the federal government set some minimum national standards. For example, Canadians would be allowed to grow a maximum of four cannabis plants per person.
However, each province would be free to make its own rules regarding cannabis. The Quebec government made it illegal to grow any cannabis for personal purposes. That did not make it a crime, but it could result in a fine, like a speeding ticket.
Second step: The challenge
A citizen decided to contest the ban against growing cannabis for personal purposes. He argued that the province did not have the power to do this, because the federal government allowed growing up to four plants.
In June 2019, the Quebec Superior Court agreed with the citizen, and ruled that Quebecers could possess and grow cannabis plants for personal use, thus making it legal in Quebec.
Third step: The Quebec government strikes back
The Quebec government appealed that decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal overruled the Superior Court decision. The appeals court declared that the provincial government had the power to ban Quebecers from possessing and growing any cannabis plants. Growing cannabis for personal purposes therefore became illegal again in Quebec.
Fourth step: The end of the story
We seem to be at the end of this saga with the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Quebec government’s power to ban home-grown cannabis…unless the Quebec government itself decides to lift the ban sometime in the future.