On October 17, Canadians 18 years and older will be able to purchase, possess and consume cannabis legally. But thanks to a clause buried in Quebec’s provincial cannabis regulations, consumers won’t be able to purchase products with cannabis imagery. That’s because Quebec says businesses cannot sell clothes with pot leaves or any other marijuana-related content.
Quebec Says ‘Non’ to Cannabis Apparel
In many key respects, Quebec’s provincial cannabis laws resemble those in other provinces across Canada. The legal age of consumption is 18. Purchase limits are fairly high at 30 grams, and possession limits are generous at 150 grams of dried cannabis. Unlike some provinces, however, Quebec permits public cannabis consumption anywhere it’s legal to smoke tobacco.
All these liberal adjustments to Canada’s federal cannabis law make Quebec one of the more hospitable places for marijuana consumers. But it almost wasn’t that way. When Quebec officials were writing the rules for the provincial cannabis industry, age limits and public consumption were major points of contention. Conservative lawmakers wanted to raise the legal age to 21 and ban public cannabis consumption in any form.
Those proposals didn’t succeed, but a strangely restrictive measure has ended up in section 50 of Quebec’s Cannabis Regulation Act anyway.
The Huffington Post Quebec is reporting that a clause in the province’s cannabis regulations prohibits images associated with cannabis from appearing on retail merchandise. In other words, businesses can’t sell apparel or any other non-cannabis item that’s branded with cannabis imagery.
No weed leaf t-shirts; no Canadian flags with a pot leaf replacing the maple leaf. Same for any backpacks featuring cartoons smoking comedically large joints. Same for any dorm-room posters of Bob Marley puffing a joint.
Or in the words of the law, “the operator of a business or a cannabis producer may not sell, give away or exchange an object that is not cannabis if a name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image or slogan that is directly associated with cannabis, a cannabis brand, the Société québeécoise du cannabis or a cannabis producer appears on this product.”
Don’t Throw Out Your Cannabis Gear! Ban Applies To Sales Only
Quebec is serious about the ban on retail products with cannabis branding. A Health Ministry spokesperson told reporters that 31 inspectors have the task of enforcing the ban on businesses across Quebec. Fines for selling cannabis-branded products are a minimum CAD$5,000 and maximum $62,500.
The rule stems from a similar ban in place on products with tobacco-related imagery on non-tobacco products. But attorney Mylany David says that ban came after the province was able to demonstrate the health impact of tobacco use. “It remains to be seen,” David said, whether Quebec officials can do the same for cannabis. Until then, she suspects the rule will face legal challenges. “Whenever the government wants to limit fundamental rights like freedom of expression, it has to demonstrate a justification,” David told Huff Post Quebec.
But the rule doesn’t mean it’s illegal simply to wear or display cannabis imagery. The ban just applies to the sale of such products. Owning them and displaying them publicly isn’t a crime. So hang on to your limited edition Cheech and Chong lunchbox. Keep wearing your well-worn Tie-Dye weed-leaf t-shirt to concerts. Just don’t lose them, because you may have a hard time buying new ones in Quebec.