Quebec backpedals on plan to ban public cannabis smoking

The CAQ government is shying away from its promise to ban cannabis users from lighting up in parks and other public spaces. But the plan to raise the age limit from 18 to 21 remains.

Province still raising age of consumption from 18 to 21 with Bill 2

Government backtracks on plan to ban public cannabis smoking, but will still up the age limit when it comes to buying and consuming it. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

The Quebec government is backing away from its plan to ban cannabis users from lighting up in parks and other public spaces, Radio-Canada has learned.

Premier François Legault originally vowed to tighten restrictions on cannabis sales and consumption, making the proposed changes a part of his original election platform.

But the province is planning to amend Bill 2 today after concluding a ban on public consumption wouldn't be enforceable.

Lionel Carmant, Quebec's junior health minister, has reworked the bill to give more leeway to municipalities when it comes to adopting and enforcing their own rules.

Carmant declined to comment Tuesday, saying more will be revealed during the upcoming study and debate of the legislation.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante was among those who opposed the government's plan to further restrict cannabis use in public.

She told a parliamentary committee last February that the restrictions included in the original bill "pose significant difficulties for Montreal."

On Tuesday, she congratulated the province for making the change.

The Quebec union of municipalities also came out against the ban on cannabis in public. Its president, Alexandre Cusson, called on the government to give municipalities greater autonomy to regulate the use of cannabis in public places on their territory.

Raising the age of consumption

The Quebec government is, however, standing by its plan to raise the age of purchase and consumption from 18 to 21.

Elsewhere in Canada, cannabis is permitted at age 19, except in Alberta, where the legal age is 18.

The government hopes to pass the bill before the National Assembly adjourns for the summer in mid-June.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Martine Biron