Quebec retailers will be barred from selling products bearing cannabis leaf
Under Quebec’s cannabis law, retailers across the province will be banned from selling products decorated with the cannabis leaf.
“Imagine a consumer walking in here with an innocent purchase in mind, just want(ing) to buy a cannabis t-shirt,” Christopher Mennillo, who co-owns a chain of smoking accessory boutiques in Quebec, told CTV Montreal. “And lo and behold, the one place he expects it to be, it won't be there.”
In shops like Mennillo’s, the iconic cannabis leaf image adorns all kinds of products, such as posters, clothing and lighters. But once cannabis becomes legal for recreational use on Oct. 17, selling such items will be illegal.
“You know, it's very disappointing,” Mennillo said. “And I do feel that it will have an impact on our sales.”
Under Quebec law, logos, designs and images cannot be used on cannabis-related objects unless they are government approved.
Mylany David, a Montreal-based commercial and real estate lawyer who heads her law firm’s cannabis practice group, says this aspect of Quebec’s cannabis law is confusing. Federal legislation, she says, is very different, focusing instead on advertising restrictions for cannabis companies, much like the restrictions on tobacco advertising.
“You cannot use your branding or your name into a public event or a stadium or building or to be associated with any sort of activity in the public life,” David explained.
Quebec’s legislation is much broader and is ostensibly meant to prevent the normalization of cannabis use. David, however, expects that it will face court challenges.
"I would believe the Quebec regulation for now would be probably subject to interpretation in the future because there is a general prohibition to promote cannabis on any object and not necessarily in objects that pertain to the consumption of cannabis,” David said. “So that leads to, I would believe, extreme prohibition.”
Speaking to CTV Montreal, a representative from Quebec’s health ministry said that they plan to enforce these regulations. To do so, they have 31 inspectors. Retailers who break the new rules can expect hefty fines from $5,000 to $62,500. Such fines can be doubled for repeat offences.
Despite his dismay with the new regulations, Mennillo says his stores will obey the law -- and keep cannabis leaf decorated products nearby in the event he is allowed to sell them again.
“Who's to say that you can't have an ashtray with a cannabis leaf?” he said. “All we can really do is keep our ear to the ground and stay in touch with our lawyers.”
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Cindy Sherwin