In 2016, a New Brunswick man, Gerard Comeau, faced a $292.50 fine after being caught with 14 cases of beer and 3 bottles of liquor that he bought in Quebec, where alcohol is cheaper.
In the case, also known as R. v. Comeau, the provincial court judge threw out the charges against Comeau, and called New Brunswick’s ban on transporting alcohol across provincial borders unconstitutional.
This all comes down to an interpretation of Section 121 in the Constitution Act of 1867 which states:
“All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces.”
The judge interpreted Section 121 as ensuring free trade between provinces, and the ruling suddenly threatened to overthrow 95 years of provincial trade barriers and government-owned monopolies.
Now, the case is going to the highest in the land- the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s ruling will affect more than just alcohol- the ruling will have a huge impact on the cannabis industry, especially as the provinces work on getting their respective regulatory regimes ready for July 2018.
With different provinces choosing different models and methods, Cannabis Culture is intervening on behalf of cannabis business owners across Canada, according to a post from Tousaw Law Corporation, their legal representatives.
Cannabis Culture is fighting against the domination of government-owned monopolies in the cannabis industry, and according to their lawyers, “To allow for monopolies in Ontario and elsewhere is to explicitly consent to the criminalization of huge numbers of Canadians, and the ruination of large numbers of small businesses.”
From 1921 until 2016, section 121 had been interpreted as goods from other provinces only being free from customs duties, which allowed for regulations like the one Comeau was ticketed for- importing more than 12 pints of beer from a different province, in this case, Quebec.
In other words, the only way you can have more than 12 pints of beer in New Brunswick is if you bought it at a liquor store in New Brunswick.
After the charges were thrown out, the Crown appealed the judge’s decision but the New Brunswick Court of Appeals refused to hear it.
Cannabis Culture are not the only interveners in this hearing- far from it. As it’s a constitutional issue, there is much at stake for provincial authority, and it has the interest of many in government. According to the CBC, “The Attorney Generals of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Northwest Territories, and the Minister of Justice of Nunavut have all filed to be interveners in the case”.