Montreal says cannabis can be smoked wherever cigarettes are allowed

The ban will apply to specific public places, such as bus shelters and other waiting areas for public transit users, as well as on the grounds of post-secondary institutions.

City is taking 'responsible approach' and will follow rules set out in existing provincial law

Montreal had originally said it would allow cannabis consumption in parks where tobacco smoking is permitted, but the new provincial government has other plans. (David Donnelly/CBC)

With cannabis legalization exactly a week away, the City of Montreal has finally unveiled its rules around where marijuana users will be allowed to smoke.

The ban will apply to specific public places, such as bus shelters and other waiting areas for public transit users, as well as on the grounds of post-secondary institutions.

Montreal intends to follow the current provincial law on cannabis, enacted earlier this year by the Liberal government.

"Our decision to apply the current provincial legal framework was based on considerations that are geared toward public safety, and that correspond to the reality and density of Montreal's population," said Mayor Valérie Plante.

With Bill 157, the Liberal government set the legal age at 18 and gave municipalities discretion over where it would be permitted to be consumed.

However, the newly elected Coalition Avenir Québec has already indicated it plans to toughen that law.

Premier-designate François Legault has said he intends to follow through on a campaign promise to ban smoking marijuana in public and to raise the legal age to 21 as soon as possible.

The Plante administration has said it has been in preliminary talks with the CAQ officials about the incoming government's proposed amendments to the law. 

The province says home-grown pot like this plant, grown in an outdoor garden in southwest Quebec in 2013, will still be banned when the drug is legalized next week. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Plante said her administration will listen but will also present the new government with the research and statistics that went into creating the current version of the law.

She said while the city believes in the benefits of the current law, it won't stand in the government's way if it decides to do something different.

Where is smoking allowed?

  • Outdoors, with some exceptions: you can smoke in parks (most parks — some have rules against it) but not on sports fields, at splash pads, wading pools or skate parks.
  • More than nine metres away from the door to a public place where smoking is forbidden.
  • At home, but it depends on where you live. Some landlords don't allow it, and condo associations have rules against smoking in common areas.

Here are some places where smoking is not allowed:

  • On the patio or terrasse of a bar, restaurant or other place of business.
  • Inside almost anywhere: hospitals, schools, CEGEPs, universities, daycare centres, bars, restaurants, sport centres, concert halls or on public transportation.

Rules stay the same for city employees

While concerns have been raised in Toronto about a decision to prohibit police officers in that city from using recreational marijuana within 28 days of reporting for duty, Montreal police won't be subject to a similar restriction.

Officers will have to show up to work "fit for duty," according to Insp. André Durocher, meaning they have to be able to work and not be impaired by any substance.

"An officer that comes in to work, if for example, one of their colleagues notices they're unfit for duty because they seem impaired, they seem dizzy, there's something wrong: this is how we're going to go about it," he said.

"We find that this is the best way for the safety of our officers — but also for the safety of the population."

The same rules will apply to municipal employees, who will be reminded of the rule starting today.

Dissent among the ranks

The city created a committee of independent experts that decided to follow the rules set out in the provincial law based on numerous factors, including the fact that 60 per cent of the city's inhabitants are renters.

Landlords in Quebec have taken steps to ensure smoking pot will be banned in rental properties. The city says its approach encourages equality among its citizens.

But the boroughs have the power to adopt their own bylaws if they want to make the rules more restrictive, and five have done so or plan to.

Saint-Laurent, Saint-Léonard, Pierrefonds-Roxboro, Montreal North and Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles, all governed by the city's opposition party, Ensemble Montréal, want smoking marijuana in parks to be banned.

In places with specific bylaws or rules concerning cannabis consumption, those rules take precedence over the provincial law.

Many other cities across the province, such as Hampstead and Quebec City, have taken a similar approach to those boroughs and have passed regulations that ban smoking cannabis in public places.