The City of Montreal is not ready for marijuana to become legal, according to members of Ensemble Montreal.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, the opposition party said the city should move quickly to implement bylaws that would ban cannabis consumption in public spaces like parks and bike paths before the law to legalize marijuana comes into effect in just two weeks.
Alan De Sousa, the borough mayor for Saint-Laurent, said citizens are concerned.
“Our citizens have expressed to us their concerns with regards to how this is going to impact our communities,” he said.
The newly-elected CAQ government says it will amend Quebec’s Cannabis Regulation Act to set the legal age at 21 and ban the consumption of marijuana in public spaces.
“We will do that the most rapidly as possible,” said Simon Jolin-Barrette, CAQ MNA for Borduas.
The CAQ says there needs to be new legislation to ban cannabis consumption in public places across the province.
“Right now, it’s chaos,” Jolin-Barrette said.
“You have some municipalities that say, ‘Okay, you can smoke in a park and not in the street.’ Others in the street it’s okay, but not in the park.”
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Quebec legislation already bans the smoking of marijuana where tobacco is already prohibited. Cannabis is also banned on the property of health establishments, college and university campuses, bike paths and bus and metro stops.
However, municipal bylaws are making the rules around consuming cannabis in public even stricter.
The Town of Hampstead banned all smoking, including cigarettes and marijuana in March of this year. Pierrefonds-Roxboro, a Montreal borough, already passed a similar bylaw this spring.
“Walking down the street, in the parks, in our town hall — you cannot smoke,” said William Steinberg, Hampstead mayor.
“Our bylaw is geared both to tobacco and once it’s legalized, cannabis…For the same sort of reasons: harmful effects of secondhand smoke and the example for young kids,” he said.
This week Quebec City announced that it would also ban pot in all public places, following similar bylaws already passed in nearby municipalities like Levis and L’Ancienne-Lorette.
On Tuesday, Quebec City mayor Regis Labeaume said fines for smoking or vaping cannabis in streets and parks will range between $150 and $1000.
“The City of Quebec is adopting a more restrictive, conservative approach from the beginning, with the possibility of revision later on,” he said.
The director of the CIUSSS de la Capitale-Nationale, Dr. François Desbiens warns that implementing municipal bylaws that are stricter than the provincial law could have negative consequences.
“Smokers are redirected to private places, leading to several negative effects, such as exposing the population to secondhand cannabis smoke,” he wrote in a press release on September 27, 2018.
He added that there is also a risk these bylaws will create “social inequity.”
“Young people are more likely to be renters and to smoke…therefore, they will have less access to a legal place, compared to homeowners who can easily consume (cannabis) in their own houses.”
The city of Laval has not yet adopted municipal bylaws for the consumption of cannabis. The next city council meeting is scheduled for November, so it is unlikely that any bylaws will be adopted before pot becomes legal.
However, a spokesperson for the city said city council was still looking at the issue, particularly studying the results of a resident survey which concluded that two thirds of respondents said the rules around cannabis should be stricter than those for tobacco.
The survey also found that 84 percent of respondents wanted their city to implement zoning bylaws for where new provincially-owned and operated marijuana stores can be established.
During National Assembly hearings for the law, the city of Laval recommended that stores selling cannabis not be established within 250 metres of schools or daycares (150 metres in Montreal), a regulation that was included in the provincial legislation.
Quebec’s provincial law also bans smoking cannabis on Quebec campuses.
Global News spoke to Laval, McGill and Bishop’s Universities, who confirmed that they are implementing stricter rules than what is laid out in the law. The universities say there will be no place on campus to consume marijuana in any form for recreational purposes.
The only exemption is for medical marijuana, provided that the person using it can show their prescription if asked for it by campus security. At Laval University, that person will also have to make a special request to the university before lighting up.
Students living in residences are allowed to possess the legal limit of 150 grams of cannabis. At Bishop’s, there will also be the added requirement that it be “properly labelled and stored.”
Sanctions and fines at Bishop’s range from warning and confiscation to fines in the hundreds of dollars.
–With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter