Quebec health minister less than thrilled with pot legalization plan
Published Monday, March 27, 2017 4:31PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 28, 2017 7:44AM EDT
As Canadians learned Monday they should be able to use marijuana legally by Canada Day 2018, it appears Quebec’s health minister is less than thrilled about the plan.
A government source has confirmed reports Ottawa intends to introduce legislation next month, following a promise the Liberals made during the election to legalize marijuana.
“Going the road of legalization is actually the responsible thing to look at and to do,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the topic.
The plan is to have a bill ready in time for April 20th of this year and the law in place 14 months later.
Ottawa would reportedly be responsible for maintaining supply, issuing licences and quality control, but the rest would be up to the provinces:
“We will have to manage all of this,” said an irritated Health Minister Gaetan Barrette at a news conference Monday.
Barrette appeared unenthused with reports the provinces will handle distribution.
“Of course, Ottawa will step back and let us have all the responsibility, as is always the case,” he said.
In February of last year, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said Quebec wanted nothing to do with the sale of marijuana, adding he had "no plan, no idea, no intention of commercializing (marijuana).
"It's up to the federal government to determine how to do it," he said. "I will never have the obligation to commercialize (marijuana) even if it becomes legal. It's not up to the province of Quebec to do that."
When asked what distribution network the federal government could use in Quebec to sell pot, Leitao responded, "They'll have to figure it out."
Leitao quickly reeled his position back, calling the legalization a “complex issue to be worked out.”
Long-time legalization activist Marc-Boris St-Maurice said it's time the province gets on board.
“The provincial government needs to get off its ass and realize that this is happening and do something about it,” he said.
It is currently far from clear what commercialization will look like in Quebec.
While selling pot at the provincial liquor outlets (SAQs) has come up, the task force appointed to study legalization recommends a ban on selling alcohol alongside marijuana.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he’s in favour of legalization, but hopes the structure is clear.
“You need to make sure there is education. You need to make sure that if you can arrest people using alcohol (driving), that by using drugs, we need to make sure we are strong on that too,” he said.
Law enforcement is a concern also raised by the Conservative Party.
“Are the police going to have all the resources they need? Are they going to be equipped to test people that are driving under the influence of drugs?” asked interim party leader Rona Ambrose.
Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said the province has set up all the necessary committees.
“We're looking at it from the public safety, of justice, and of public health in particular,” said Coiteux.
Ottawa may write most of the rules, but the provinces will set the price tag. According to one government report, they may also keep 60 per cent of tax revenues.
All the details are expected in a few weeks.