In the interest of people who are “less wealthy and are renters,” the Coalition Avenir Québec government is abandoning its hard line on marijuana smoking.
Cannabis will no longer be forbidden in all public spaces, because municipalities will be able to permit it in their parks.
Deputy Health Minister Lionel Carmant tabled his amendments Tuesday, at the start of hearings by a parliamentary committee. Opposition parties applauded the CAQ’s concession on the issue.
“I’m sensitive to the fact that people who are less rich, who are renters, might not have a place to smoke cannabis, because they won’t be able to smoke it in their apartment, most of the time,” Premier François Legault said. “Therefore, if they can’t smoke in a public place, can we not find them a specific area?”
In the proposed amendment, a municipality can authorize consumption in a park, except in sectors that have:
- a sports field, or areas reserved for spectators;
- playgrounds, waterparks and wading pools
- land reserved for day camps, skating rinks or outdoor pools
Municipalities will have to post signs indicating where smoking is permitted. They will also have to forbid smoking in parks during cultural festivals or large sporting events.
Interim Parti Québécois leader Pascal Bérubé told reporters Tuesday the government is having a consistency problem if it allows cannabis to be smoked in public places but continues with a ban on alcohol consumption in public.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante welcomed the apparent change of heart.
“Sixty per cent of Montreal residents are renters and (many) can’t smoke at home,” Plante told reporters. She said that “ideally, the city of Montreal would decide exactly where people could and couldn’t consume cannabis, and it would be the same rules as for the consumption of tobacco. For example, you can’t smoke near a playground and near certain buildings.”
Plante said boroughs would be allowed to impose rules to ban smoking up in parks.
Alan DeSousa, mayor of St-Laurent borough, said his borough has already passed a bylaw prohibiting the consumption of cannabis in local parks.
“We want to treat cannabis like the drug that it is, for the same reason that we ban alcohol consumption in parks,” he said.
Andy Riga of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report.