The Quebec government maintains exclusive control over the distribution of cannabis in Quebec. The Société des Alcools du Québec (“SAQ”) has the mission to ensure the sale of cannabis and carries that mission exclusively through the Société québécoise du cannabis (“SQDC”).1
In addition to being the exclusive distributor of cannabis in Quebec, the SQDC is the exclusive online cannabis retailer in the province.2
On November 1, 2019, the Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis3 passed in Quebec. Since this date, the legal age to possess or purchase cannabis, and to be admitted to the premises of the SQDC, is 21 years old.
There is no restriction as to interprovincial movement of cannabis, but transportation of cannabis is subject to the public possession limit of 30 g of dried cannabis (or equivalent) per person for adult-use.
The market size of cannabis in Quebec is estimated at more than 8.4 million.
Cannabis Retail in Quebec
An authorized producer in Quebec may sell cannabis only to the SQDC or to another producer, unless the authorized producer ships it outside Quebec. Only the SQDC is permitted to sell cannabis retail in Québec.
The first store locations of the SQDC were selected according to population density together with the collaboration of the municipalities. Each municipality concerned had to indicate its willingness to have an SQDC store within the city limits.
As of September 1, 2020 there are currently 56 cannabis retail stores operating in Quebec. In order to meet with the growing demand, the SQDC has set up a transactional website under which online purchases can be made.
SQDC store network will be expanding throughout Quebec in the upcoming years. The location of these stores has not yet been determined. The plans for the store network expansion are constantly evolving and will continue to be adapted to meet demand.
Although the sale of edibles, extracts and topicals is now legal in Canada since December 16, 2019, the Quebec government has ruled in order to ban the sale of topical cannabis products in the province. Consequently, Cannabis retailers’ outlet of the SQDC are only permitted to sell dried cannabis, cannabis oil, fresh cannabis, cannabis resin, edible cannabis products, beverage and cannabis extract. The SQDC is also unauthorized to sell any vaping product as vaping is considered to cause health problems. No other products shall be sold in Quebec although others may be approved by the federal government.
All the types of cannabis cannot contain any additives or any other substances intended to modify its taste, colour, or odour, and all edible cannabis products sold in Québec shall not be sweet, nor in the form of a confectionery, a dessert, a chocolate or in any form being attractive to people under the age of 21 years old. The Quebec government has also ruled more restrictively than the federal government regarding edible products as all of such products shall not contain, in solid form, more than 10 mg of THC per package or more than 5 mg of THC per portion and, in liquid form, more than 5 mg of THC per container.
Cannabis retail stores may not be located within 250 metres of an educational institution providing preschool, elementary or secondary school instructional services. In the territory of Ville de Montréal, SQDC may not operate a cannabis outlet within 150 metres of an educational institution.
Adult-Use of Cannabis
Under the Cannabis Regulation Act,4 Quebec prohibits possessing a cannabis plant and to cultivate cannabis for personal use although the federal government authorizes cultivating up to four cannabis plants per residence (not per person). However, as of September 3, 2019, it seems now legal in Quebec to grow cannabis at home in accordance with the federal law since the Superior Court of Quebec has ruled unconstitutional Quebec’s prohibition to possess and cultivate cannabis. However, the Quebec government has appealed such decision on October 10, 2019 invalidating sections of the Cannabis Regulation Act and, consequently, some uncertainty might remain until the final ruling of such appeal with respect to cultivating cannabis at home in Quebec.4
An individual may however possess 150 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in a private residence, regardless of the number of persons living in such residence. Quebec also prohibits possessing cannabis in certain places, particularly places accessible mainly to minors.
As for the possession of cannabis in public areas, Quebec government has not regulated to reduce the amount of cannabis that a person may possess in such a public place as provided under the federal Cannabis Act, so it is possible to possess 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent, in a public place in Quebec. Under the Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis5 it is forbidden to smoke or vape cannabis in any public place whether indoor or outdoor.
In the workplace, the Cannabis Regulation Act provides employers, pursuant to their decision-making prerogatives, the possibility to regulate the use of cannabis, and as such, employers may prohibit it entirely .