Quebec's cannabis accessory ban was legally challenged last week

Quebec‘s sweeping ban on the sale of cannabis products was challenged in the Provincial Supreme Court last Thursday. Quebec’s cannabis accessory ban came into effect post-legalization and it’s been hurting small businesses ever since. Unless you are a provincial retailer, it is illegal to sell anything deemed to be a cannabis accessory, including lighters, shirts, and books.

With the encouragement and backing of other cannabis ventures, one head shop owner is making a stand against Quebec’s cannabis accessory ban. The Cannabis Regulation Law has headed to court but the verdict is not out yet; in the meantime, here are the details about this situation.

Quebec Law regarding cannabis accessories

Cannabis was legalized in 2018 and Quebec introduced The Cannabis Regulation Law shortly after. Under the title ‘Special Features Relating To Use Restrictions’, there is a section called ‘In terms of cannabis accessories’. Not long and very vague, it only contains two main points, the first one allows for the creation of a monopoly while the second eliminates competition: 

  1. SQDC points of sale can sell accessories, specialized publications on cannabis, or any other product determined by government regulation.
  2. It is prohibited for the operator of a business, a producer of cannabis as well as a distributor and manufacturer of accessories to sell, give or exchange an object, which is not cannabis, on which appears a name, logo, distinctive sign, design, image or slogan associated with cannabis, a cannabis brand of cannabis, the SQDC or a cannabis producer. For example, it is forbidden to sell a t-shirt or an ashtray with a cannabis leaf on it.
Société Québécoise Du Cannabis(SQDC)Quebec's Cannabis Accessory Ban

Note – SQDC stands for Société Québécoise Du Cannabis and is translated in English as Quebec Cannabis Corporation.

Reefer Madness to steal the market

Quebec’s lawmakers, if you see one, you want one and that’s not legally acceptable…unless you are buying it from them. Created to protect minors from cannabis, this law is all about the perception of added pressure.

It comes from the idea that seeing images of cannabis will encourage its use. But with such a broad choice of words, a cannabis accessory could be anything from a slogan to a number; creating a bigger ban than needed. It is strictly enforced province-wide with one exception to the rule, government stores.

Oddly, Quebec’s lawmakers seem to believe that peer pressure isn’t a problem if the province makes a profit.  To ensure that no one steps on QC turf, the fines for breaking this law range from $2,500 to $62,500. Even worse, this law is open to interpretation and fines can double for repeat offenders. 

Legal Challenge against Quebec’s Cannabis Accessory Ban

With the support of the cannabis business community, one head shop owner has had enough. Christopher Mennillo is the vice president and co-owner of the head shop chain, Prohibition.

On Thursday, April 15th, 2021, he brought this issue to the Supreme Court to be challenged. His argument is that the provincial ban on cannabis-themed products is an infringement on an individual’s freedom of expression and has no basis in fact. Furthermore, there need to be exceptions, especially when it comes to accessing the information on medical cannabis.

As it stands, cannabis books and magazines are banned across Quebec. The trial challenging Quebec’s Cannabis Accessory Ban ended on Thursday but the judge is deliberating before returning with the decision. 

Quebec's Cannabis Accessory Ban
Christopher Mennillo, co-owner of Prohibition – Image Credit: CBC

“We really didn’t think that come legalization day, products that we’ve been selling for the last 30 years would all of a sudden become illegal,” said Christopher Mennillo, vice-president and co-owner of the head shop chain Prohibition.