By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A Manitoba judge has upheld the province’s ban on homegrown non-medical cannabis.
Justice Shauna McCarthy, of the Court of King’s Bench, has rejected a claim that the ban was unconstitutional and an infringement on federal jurisdiction.
The case dates back to 2018, when the federal government decriminalized cannabis possession and allowed people to grow up to four plants at home for recreational use.
The Manitoba government enacted a law to ban homegrown recreational cannabis, saying the ban is an important part of the province’s approach to regulate and control access.
Jesse Lavoie, a cannabis advocate, took the matter to court and said the province was overstepping its bounds by going further than the federal law.
But the judge ruled the province is within its rights to impose the ban.
“I have found that the pith in substance, or the dominant purpose, of the prohibition against home cultivation in Manitoba is to support the provincial government scheme enacted to control and regulate the purchase, distribution, and sale of cannabis in a manner consistent with the public interest,” McCarthy wrote in a decision dated Oct. 13.
“The public interest objective of the (province) in prohibiting home cultivation of cannabis, despite the approach taken in most other provinces and in the federal Cannabis Act, was to protect the health and safety of the public, including limiting access to cannabis by youth, and preventing homegrown cannabis from finding its way into unregulated or illicit markets.
“These objectives fall under the provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights, matters of a local or private nature, and licensing of businesses,” McCarthy wrote.
Outgoing Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said he was pleased with the decision. The Progressive Conservative government was defeated in the Oct. 3 provincial election and a new cabinet led by New Democrat premier-designate Wab Kinew is to be sworn in Wednesday.
“The ban on homegrown recreational marijuana was always about protecting the health and safety of young people. This is an important objective that is within provincial jurisdiction and the court has affirmed that through this decision,” Goertzen wrote in a statement Monday.
Lavoie said he will continue to fight the law.
“We do not accept this decision, and we are preparing our counter arguments for the Court of Appeal.”
Fines for violating the Manitoba ban, which does not apply to medical cannabis, start at $2,542.
Quebec has also banned homegrown recreational cannabis and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that law in April.