You could be forgiven if you thought organized crime had a say in the crafting of Quebec’s recreational cannabis bill presented in the National Assembly on Thursday.
Quebec’s Liberal party didn’t want to see the herb legalized in Quebec, and has only grudgingly moved to set up a framework for when it is legalized at the federal level in Canada next year — if the Senate doesn’t hold up the process.
It was just too much bother for them, too much work in a short period of time, they whined. Instead, it seemed they were content to let it remain an illegal substance, to let people buy it on the streets, to let illegal growers and sellers continue to not be regulated and to not pay taxes, and to let law enforcement officials make the occasional bust on hydroponic operations while at the same time keeping the cash flowing into the legal profession defending and prosecuting people.
To be fair, Quebec’s Liberals are probably not in collusion with biker gangs, the Mob and other black market types. They may simply believe that a legal framework won’t be successful against a well-entrenched black market, and that may be why they will only be opening 15 cannabis outlets in the province. The street dealers will surely undercut provincial government prices; the legal market won’t be able to compete with the black market.
So, while Quebec’s legislation may appear to be the most restrictive in Canada so far, it may also be the most realistic. Quebec’s Liberals are throwing in the towel in Round 1. Organized crime and all the current cottage-industry growers and sellers win by a technical knockout.
The ban on growing pot at home in Quebec is also drawing a lot of criticism. At the federal level, Canadians will be allowed to grow four plants at a time. But Quebec’s Liberals see too many complications with that idea — for example, a lot of landlords may not want their tenants growing pot in their apartments. How can the government regulate it, they ask. And how do you police it to make sure people are only growing four plants, as opposed to, say, eight?
Still, people who do go ahead and grow a few plants won’t be going to jail under the new law. They will be fined, if by chance they get caught — and you know police won’t be conducting house-to-house searches.
In fact, not much will change for the policing of marijuana in Quebec. Police forces will still make the odd bust now and then, and they will catch some people driving under the influence.
But the good thing about it all is that simple possession of cannabis will no longer be officially illegal. That is a step forward, albeit a small step, because possession has been quasi-legal for a long time.
For investors (including me), it seems doubtful cannabis companies will reap the profits everyone has been dreaming about the past year or so as their stocks have soared on the TSX. There may not be as much demand for legal weed in Canada as hoped, and we’ll probably see a major shakeout in the industry, with only a few big companies (Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, Organigram) surviving because of their international strategies.
They certainly won’t be making much money in Quebec.
Photo credit: Chmee2, Wikimedia Commons