Cannabis to be banned at festivals and on streets of Quebec City

Cannabis consumption in Quebec City will stay behind closed doors, under the new bylaws the city intends to adopt by Oct. 17.

Mayor Régis Labeaume taking 'conservative approach' ahead of Oct. 17 legalization

Smoking or inhaling cannabis at public events on the Plains of Abraham will not be permitted under the municipal bylaws the city plans to pass before marijuana becomes legal across Canada on Oct. 17. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

Cannabis will not be allowed in public spaces in Quebec City — at least for now.

Mayor Régis Labeaume​ said his council is taking a conservative approach to the legalization of cannabis on Oct. 17.

"It seemed to us like the responsible decision to make," he said ahead of Monday night's city council meeting at which the proposed measures are to be adopted.

Fines will start at $150 for someone caught smoking marijuana in public and go as high as $1,000 for repeat offences.

The municipal regulation goes further than the provincial law, which allows marijuana use in places where tobacco is permitted. 

Quebec City is banning cannabis consumption in all public spaces, including on sidewalks, streets and bus stops. (Julia Caron/CBC)

Labeaume said this would have been too difficult to implement, given certain places, like schools, are off limits.

"Just imagine the street signs," Legault said.

Similar to rules for alcohol

Labeaume said the new rules will work the same way alcohol restrictions do: smoking or inhaling cannabis will be prohibited on the street, and it will be illegal to be high in public.

Quebec City police Chief Robert Pigeon said his officers are already undergoing training to recognize when a driver is impaired by cannabis consumption, which is already covered by provincial law.

Neighbouring municipalities like Lévis and L'Ancienne-Lorette have already tabled similar bylaws. 

Labeaume said he wants to see how legalization plays out across the country, and the city can adjust the rules down the line, if necessary.

A committee will be set up to see how citizens respond to the first months of legalization.

"I think we'll know soon enough" if tweaks to the bylaw are needed, he said.

Banned from festivals

The new bylaws will also apply on the Plains of Abraham, even though that heritage site is federally owned. 

The city's largest event, the Festival d'été de Québec, sees tens of thousands of concert goers take over the site during its ten-day run in July.

Cannabis use won't be permitted in public spaces in Quebec City, including streets, parks and sidewalks. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Labeaume said the city has reached an agreement with the National Battlefields Commission, which operates the site, and the city's bylaws will apply there.

"It is forbidden to smoke cannabis in the City of Quebec, including the Plains of Abraham," said Labeaume.

The same rules apply to other federally owned sites, including the Port de Québec and the Jean-Lesage Airport.

Public health concerns

The director of public health for the Quebec City region has expressed concerns over the municipal regulations being tagged on to the provincial law.

Dr. François Desbiens said limiting consumption to indoors in private homes would increase exposure to second-hand smoke.

It would also have a negative impact on social acceptability, if tenants are forced to smoke on their back porch.

"I understand their argument, but I am looking at this from the point of view of municipal governance," Labeaume responded.

Desbiens is involved in the municipality's overview committee, he said.

The Festival d'été de Québec said it will respect the regulations put in place by the National Battlefields Commission, the federal agency that manages the Plains of Abraham. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)