Local businesspeople considering suing Quebec over pot rules

When pot becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17, it won't be legal in Quebec to sell anything that's not cannabis with a depiction of a pot plant, or even uses the word "cannabis".

That rule — Article 50 of Quebec's pot law — is causing some business owners to consider suing the province for the right to do just that.

Martin Guimond, the owner of the Saint-Bock brewpub on St. Denis St., sells a cannabis-flavored beer, which contains no THC, but calls itself "cannabis beer without cannabis", and shows a depiction of a pot plant on its label. At the moment, he's sitting on roughly 40,000 bottles of the concoction, and says it's highly unlikely he'll be able to sell them all in less than two weeks.

He also says he stands to lose roughly $400,000 if he isn't allowed to sell it.

"The law actually doesn't make any sense," he says. "When we brewed the beer last May, the RACJ [the Régie des Alcools, des Courses et des Jeux, the government agency that regulates booze sales in Quebec] said everything is absolutely okay, the beer is good."

The pot law, Bill 157, was endorsed by National Assembly members in June, and Guimond says no one consulted him on the change.

Article 50 forbids any business owner to "sell or give an object that is not cannabis or supply such an object as part of an exchange if a name, logo, distinguishing guise, design, image or slogan that is directly associated with cannabis, a brand of cannabis, the Société québécoise du cannabis or a cannabis producer appears on the object." The idea behind it, according to a Quebec health ministry spokesperson, is to prevent the normalization of pot use. Rules against tobacco advertising, for example, exist for the same reasons.

Selling the beer with the pot-plant label after Oct. 17 would mean Guimond could face a fine ranging from $2,500 to $62,500 for a first offence.

Guimond says other businesspeople he knows may also get in on the suit.