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Quebec Shopkeeper Plans Legal Challenge Against Province's Ban On Marijuana Merch

Business owners in Quebec are not happy about the province's harsh restrictions on marijuana merchandise.

When cannabis becomes legal in Canada this Wednesday (Oct. 17), a whole host of marijuana-related products will conversely become banned. At least in Quebec, that is. The province plans to prohibit the sale of anything bearing 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."

That means t-shirts, posters and anything else bearing a cannabis leaf will become banned throughout Quebec. The contentious restriction could be a huge setback for Quebec businesses that thrive on selling marijuana-themed merchandise and paraphernalia. That's why at least one store owner says he's prepared to take the government to court over the new rule.

"We're legalizing it, but we're taking a step backward," Chris Mennillo - co-owner of a chain of head shops called Prohibition - told Montreal Gazette. "We converted the act of legalization, which seven out of 10 Canadians have expressed support for, into a second prohibition, which is very disappointing," 

Mennillo says his stores will be removing any products that don't comply with the new regulations, including anything picturing a cannabis leaf or the number '420.' However, he says the language around the law isn't clear so people like him don't even know which products violate the law.

"Because of that ambiguity, it's very difficult for us to determine what exactly constitutes something that is 'promoting cannabis,' " he said. "Where do [we] draw the line? Will a Snoop Dogg poster be considered a cannabis reference?"

To press the issue, Mennillo is calling on other Quebec businesses to join a coalition in order to mount a legal challenge against the province. And the incoming government of newly elected Premier Francois Legault looks ready for a fight. Legault hasn't officially taken office yet, but he's already committed to even more restrictive cannabis regulations by announcing plans to raise the legal age in Quebec from 18 to 21.

So Mennillo and his cannabis coalition would be wise to get ready for a tough fight.


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