Is Canada About to Crack Down on Cannabis Use, Public Drinking?

A blog with a penchant for misinformation about life in Canada published another misleading post in June 2019.

  • Published 14 June 2019

Claim

New prohibitions on public drinking and cannabis use "in every province of Canada" were scheduled to come into force in July 2019.

Rating

Origin

A blog with a pattern of publishing false and misleading stories about Canada claimed that a nationwide crackdown on public drinking and cannabis smoking was imminent in that country. In June 2019, Canada-Eh.info published a post with the headline, “Canadians Can Be Fined $1,500 for Drinking or Smoking Weed in Public, Starting Next Month,” which reported that:

“Mayors are considering to bring [sic] this [sic] new tougher laws in every province of Canada, you will no longer will be able to consume alcohol or smoke weed responsibly in parks or on beaches. Fines vary from province to province, but they can be up to $1,000 in in provinces like British Columbia and Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The report continued on to say: “If you get caught with open alcohol in Toronto right now, you could face a fine of up to $125 and a whopping $230 in Vancouver. Tougher rules are coming for most people who like to consume alcohol or weed in public. Starting next month if you are caught drinking beer or smook [sic] weed in public, the police will pour out your alcohol and make you pay a fine $1,500.”

As has been the case with previous Canada-Eh stories we have examined, the claims here were at times ambiguous and confusing. More broadly, the narrative of an imminent nationwide crackdown on public drinking and smoking in July 2019 — “new tougher laws in every province of Canada” — was false.

As was the case with previous stories, Canada-Eh republished an almost-identical version of the post just two days later, on 12 June.

Analysis

Canada has no uniform nationwide policy on public alcohol consumption or cannabis use. Policies are determined by provincial governments or municipal authorities in individual cities and towns throughout the country. Most cities and provinces have historically prohibited public drinking (which belies the article’s claim about a new crackdown on such behavior), but Canada’s legalization of cannabis in 2018 prompted some governments to rethink their approach to drinking in public places, as the Canadian Press reported:

As all corners of the country prepare for a seismic shift in how and where people consume marijuana, several cities are considering whether it would make sense to legalize drinking alcohol in parks as well — a move an expert said would bring antiquated laws in line with the way people already behave.

“I think a lot of people who want to have a bottle of wine in a public park on a Sunday are probably going to be doing that anyway,” said Mitchell Kosny, interim director of Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning. The idea of legalizing alcohol in parks and on beaches has come up in Toronto and Vancouver, both of which are in the midst of municipal elections and both of which are in provinces that will allow people to toke in public come Oct. 17.

Kosny said he suspects the idea is floating around now because election candidates and front runners may want to appear “open-minded.” Toronto Mayor John Tory floated the idea at an event Thursday, pointing out that it would seem counterintuitive to allow people to smoke pot in parks but not drink a beer — especially since people are already bringing wine and beer to their picnics.

In Ontario, for example, smoking or vaping in any workplace or enclosed public place is prohibited, with the punishment ranging from a $1,000 fine for the first offense to $5,000 for subsequent offenses. However, the ban doesn’t extend to smoking or vaping in open-air public spaces.

While the province of Ontario had traditionally banned drinking alcohol in public, the government’s 2019 budget, launched in April 2019, introduced a new tailgating permit to allow public alcohol consumption at certain sporting events and introduced a measure that would allow cities within Ontario to designate public areas, such as parks, for alcohol consumption.

By contrast, authorities in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, moved in 2018 to ban smoking on all public municipal properties such as roads and sidewalks, even in open air.

As a further illustration of how complex the interaction of provincial and municipal authority in Canada is, Québec’s provincial government introduced legislation in February 2019 that would prohibit public cannabis use but later reportedly resiled from those plans after the mayor and police chief in Montréal declared the regulations would be unenforceable.

In reality, regulations on public drinking and smoking vary from province to province and city to city in Canada, in contrast to Canada-Eh.info’s false claim of a new nationwide crackdown on both behaviors — “new tougher laws in every province” — scheduled for implementation in July 2019. As such, the claim is false.

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