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Supreme Court trial on home ban reveals bigger issue in federal cannabis legalization

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In Canada, legalization gives people the ability to grow up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use — unless, of course, you live in Manitoba or Quebec.

Both provinces have banned the cultivation of cannabis for adults in the home since the start of federal legislation in 2018. A Quebec man is trying to persuade the province to reconsider. Janick Murray Hall is challenging the ban on behalf of himself and anyone else who may be punished for growing cannabis at home.

The ongoing legal battle started in 2019 and reached another milestone like status we heard Before the Canadian Supreme Court on the morning of September 15. The hearing, as an exception, was held in Quebec City rather than Ottawa as part of a Supreme Court initiative to make the judicial system more accessible to Canadians.

Does a regional cannabis ban replace rights granted under federal legislation?

Murray Hall believes that Sections 5 and 10 of Quebec Cannabis Regulation Act Inconsistent with Canadian Charter rights and liberty on the grounds that they are directly inconsistent with federal law cannabis law. By law, Canadians are allowed to grow and own up to four cannabis plants per household for personal consumption.

He says federal law should take precedence over regional legislation.

In court on Thursday, Murray Hall’s attorney, Maxime Guerin, accused the county of creating legislation to “stigmatize possession, increase and consumption of cannabis,” saying it undermined the values ​​of the federal government. an act.

“The Quebec government was really looking to compensate or invalidate federal legislation,” Guerin told the court, answering questions from the nine Supreme Court justices sitting in a Quebec City courtroom.

Geran also told the court that federal regulations “apparently confer positive rights” on Canadians regarding the cultivation and ownership of cannabis plants.

But Patricia Blair, the legal representative of the Attorney General of Quebec, told the court that while the federal cannabis law It may make cannabis cultivation illegal federally, and does not give Canadians the right or entitlement to do so.

Blair noted that the Criminal Code is not intended to grant “positive rights”, but rather to prohibit certain activities.

Blair also stressed that regional legislation, including a ban on home farming, is aimed at ensuring the safety of Quebec youth and cannabis consumers.

This means that in the end, according to Blair, regional legislation actually has “the same goal” as federal legislation. cannabis lawdespite Murray Hill’s allegations of disparity.

The Court also heard from a long line of Interlocutors, whose role is to advance their own view on a legal matter before the Court and to help provide a broader perspective of a particular issue from the perspective of Defendants and Appellants.

Parties with interventionist status included representatives of advocacy groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Justice, and Amnesty Cannabis. from industry groups such as the Canadian Hemp Council and the Association of the Cannabis Industry of Quebec; and the attorneys general of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba, the latter being the only other province in Canada where home farming is prohibited.

Canadians can grow four plants at home – except for Manitoba and Quebec

Legal challenge It dates back to 2019 When applicant Murray Hall, best known for being the creator of the parody website “Le Journal de Mourréal”, challenged two sections of Regional Cannabis Legislation which prohibits Quebecers from growing cannabis at home and/or possessing cannabis plants for personal use.

The Supreme Court sided with Murray Hall and have found Both Sections 5 and 10 of the Provincial Code are constitutionally invalid.

In her ruling, Judge Manon Lavoie wrote that the divisions violated the jurisdiction of the federal government, which allowed the cultivation of up to four plants per household and is solely responsible for criminal matters legislation.

Judge Lavoie noted that while the county would likely place additional restrictions on home farming, it could not ban the practice completely. But the decision was overturned In September 2021 by the Quebec Court of Appeal, which unanimously ruled that the provisions in question are constitutionally valid.

Then Murray Hall took the fight to the highest court in the country.

despite of Overwhelming public support For home cultivation In pre-legalization surveys, growing cannabis at home will cost you. People caught possessing or growing cannabis for personal use in Quebec face a fine of anywhere from $250 to $750 for the first offense, with double the amount for a second offense, under current legislation.

Labelle County It has long had some of the strictest cannabis laws in the country, including a legal minimum age for consumption (21 and over), restrictions on the amount of cannabis that private residents can have, and additional restrictions on products such as eatershirts Bongs, books.

Manitoba is the only other province in Canada that has banned home farming for adult use.

This trial could pave the way for the regional ban to be challenged in other provinces as well

Outside of Quebec, Manitoba residents will be most directly affected by the upcoming decision.

A resolution endorsing a provincial ban in Quebec would essentially put a ban on farming in Manitoba. If the ban is repealed as unconstitutional, many homes in Manitoba may become a little greener in the near future, likely to the dismay of the attorney general’s office.

For the rest of Canada, the consequences may be less immediately apparent in everyday life, but Toronto-based attorney and former director of NORML Canada Karema Saad said leaf fly That the decision in this case could set a precedent with legal consequences beyond the cultivation of cannabis at home in Quebec.

It might be a good example Alberta (Attorney General) v. Moloneya 2015 case relating to auto insurance and the conflict between provincial and federal legislation repeatedly cited by attorneys and intervening facts as this case makes its way through the court system.

Saad says Murray Hill’s argument that federal law is superior to provincial legislation has some validity and cites the doctrine of sovereignty, which states that in cases where federal and provincial laws conflict, federal laws prevail.

The Societé Québecoise du Cannabis (SQDC) has generated an estimated $168.5 million in net income since ratification and recently announced net income of $20.5 million for the first quarter ending June 2022.

The conflict can consist of a direct operational conflict, in which it is impossible to comply with both federal and regional laws, or an indirect operational conflict, in which the operation of regional legislation “frustrates” the purpose of the federal laws.

But this does not mean that the case is open and closed.

In the name of the Federal Co-operative, [the doctrine of paramountcy] It should be applied with restraint, Saad explains. The crux of the legal argument stems from this – does cannabis law In fact Giving Canadians the affirmative right to grow and own the cannabis plant?

“Yes, I think it gives people the affirmative right,” she says, but she cautions that judges may not see it that way. “In the end, it is impossible to predict the outcome.”

Does Quebec protect citizens or profit margins?

While the province’s attorneys and some interventionists stressed that the planting ban was about protecting consumers and the safety of young people, others questioned whether the province might also protect its financial interest as the only source of legal weed in Quebec.

In a recent investigation MJBiz Daily, reporter Matt Lammers revealed that the most profitable cannabis company in Canada was, in fact, owned by the government. Number two on the list? Societé Québecoise du Cannabis (SQDC) in Quebec – the only legal cannabis seller in the province.

SQDC has generated an estimated $168.5 million in net income since legalization and more recently announce Net income of $20.5 million for the first quarter ended June 2022. With an additional $33.5 million in consumer and excise taxes, SQDC generated a total of $54 million for the Quebec government in that quarter.

“The purpose of SQDC is not to make profits, but to be a non-profit company,” Guerin said at the end of the session, noting that the money went to “government coffers,” albeit with a condition that it could be reinvested.

Does anyone please think of children?

The protection of young people was mentioned repeatedly throughout the hearing, with county prosecutors stressing the ban as a way to keep children and young people safe.

But Montreal researcher Kira London Nadeau, president of the Canadian Students for Reasonable Medicines Policy, founder of VoxCann, and strategic advisor to the Schizophrenia Association of Canada’s National Cannabis and Psychosis Project, doubts the province’s argument that bans on home cultivation protect young people.

“Because the plant needs to be properly prepared in order to produce any psychoactive effects, growing cannabis at home does not mean that young people will have absolute access,” said London-Nadeau. leaf fly.

“But perhaps most importantly, growing cannabis at home opens the door for families to have open, honest, and stigmatizing conversations about cannabis use.”

London-Nadeau believes that an age-appropriate but straightforward approach is integral when it comes to the safety and well-being of children and adolescents.

“We need to get rid of the idea that protecting young people means hiding things from them and take actual responsibility for ensuring that young people have the tools and knowledge to make their own informed decisions,” she says. “This is the best way to support young people.”

Don’t expect to know the verdict of the trial anytime soon

When the Supreme Court will issue its ruling is anyone’s guess, but Saad estimated that it could take months – or more – before Canadians hear the decision. Until then, home gardeners in Quebec will have to fly under the radar to avoid heavy fines.

Alternatively, Quebecers have the option of purchasing cannabis products (illegally) from the illegal market that the provincial legislation has sought to eliminate, or (legally) buying cannabis products from a provincial retailer and handing their money over to the government that enacted the ban.

No matter how the judges rule, it is somewhat ironic that a county that values ​​its independence above all else has lost all decision-making power in its long attempt to defend it. With the issue now in federal hands, all Quebecers can do is wait.

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