Montreal

Are cannabis cafés the solution to limits on pot smoking set by Quebec towns and cities?

The mayor of Saint-Jérôme thinks so.

The mayor of Saint-Jérôme thinks so

Friends smoke at the New Amsterdam Cafe in Vancouver. Saint-Jérôme Mayor Stéphane Maher says users should be able to smoke cannabis at designated cafes in the province. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

One Quebec mayor says the best way to prevent people from smoking cannabis illegally in many of the province's municipalities is to open cafés where people would be allowed to consume it. 

Several towns and cities have announced a ban on smoking marijuana in most public places, leaving a user's place of residence one of the only places where the practice would be sanctioned. 

Saint-Jérôme Mayor Stéphane Maher had initially taken the position that smoking the substance should be banned outside outside people's homes.

But even smoking at home is not a sure thing, as landlords have the right to ban it from apartments and condo buildings. 

"We are at a point of no return now. The only way to respond to that issue is to develop a coffee shop pilot project," said Maher in an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Wednesday. 

He says his administration consulted residents of Saint-Jérôme, 50 kilometres north of Montreal, and the results overwhelmingly showed that most did not want to be around cannabis smoke.

They are especially adamant about protecting children from it, the mayor said.

"If you have a choice between smoking cannabis in your backyard in the wintertime or to be in a secure place like a coffee shop," the question answers itself, Maher said. 

He argues that much like a bar, the café would offer a controlled environment, where staff could discourage users who had consumed too much from driving and where teens under 18 would be prohibited from smoking.

Cafés part of PQ platform

Parti Québécois leader Jean-François Lisée told reporters Tuesday that while he prefers people don't smoke cannabis in public areas, he wants to legalize cafés where the substance can be consumed. (Radio-Canada)

Maher isn't the only one promoting the idea of cannabis cafés. On Tuesday, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée said he would amend Quebec's law, which goes into effect Oct. 17 in concert with federal legislation, to permit such cafés.

"I think it's a realistic way of providing a place for people who want to consume it," Lisée said Tuesday. 

The PQ leader said he otherwise isn't in favour of cannabis being smoked in public, although he hasn't said whether he'd amend the law to reflect that stance.

CAQ plan to toughen law

Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault has said his party would ban smoking weed in all public spaces and push the legal age for consumption from 18 to 21. 

The Liberal government's law framing pot use in the province sets the legal age at 18 and leaves some of the decision-making on where people can smoke up to municipalities.

Québec Solidaire wants to let people grow their own weed, which will be legal in the federal law.

As for whether pot cafés would turn Saint-Jérôme into an attractive venue for tourists hoping to smoke cannabis, like Amsterdam, Maher says he doesn't want that to happen. 

"But I understand it could be attractive," he said.

With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak

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