The Quebec government does not want anyone to grow marijuana plants at home, and it sent a clear message to the federal government Thursday that it is ready to fight to impose that ban.
Federal Bill C-45, the proposed law to legalize cannabis which is now before the Senate, would allow Canadians to grow up to four plants at home for their personal use.
Both Quebec and Manitoba, however, have taken a zero-tolerance position on homegrown weed.
The issue contains all the ingredients for a government showdown, with federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould declaring Wednesday "there are limits" to the restrictions that the provinces can impose on home cultivation of marijuana.
"Where there are other pieces of legislation or proposed pieces of legislation that would seek to frustrate the purposes [of the federal legislation], then there are concerns there," she said.
Ready to fight
Both the Quebec's minister responsible for relations with Canada, Jean-Marc Fournier, and Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois are vowing to defend the province's right to decide what's right for Quebecers.
"I will tell you that the majority of people, what they are asking of me is [to allow] zero plants at home," Charlebois said.
She said people have told her they are worried that if the province opens the door to homegrown cannabis, some will grow too much for their own consumption and then be tempted to sell it. They also worry teenagers might come across their parents' pot and sample it.
"They have said, at the beginning, please, be more restrictive," she said, adding that the ban could be re-evaluated after two or three years.
Jurisdiction is 'murky'
Fournier argues the federal government has the power to make it illegal to grow five plants or more at home — but it does not have the power to authorize Canadians to grow up to four plants.
He believes Quebec is well within its jurisdiction to impose a penalty.
However, Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt, who spoke before the parliamentary hearings on the federal legislation, says the division of powers on matters arising from the legalization of marijuana is "murky."
"The real debate is on what the purpose of the ban is," said Spratt. "Is it more of a criminal sanction?"
If Quebec were to treat growing any amount of marijuana at home as a crime, it would be stepping onto federal jurisdiction, he said. Only the federal government has control over the Criminal Code.
"Anyone caught contravening Quebec's proposed law about growing marijuana at home would be in an ideal place to challenge the constitutionality of that restriction," Spratt said.
Quebec's proposed legislation provides for fining anyone caught growing pot, although it hasn't said how big the fine would be.