A headshop owner in Quebec, Canada is suing the provincial government over its ban on cannabis-themed products, arguing that the ban prevents true freedom of expression and that the government hasn’t proven the ban is necessary to prevent the public – especially young people – from being harmed, the Canadian Press reports.
The law bans the sale of cannabis-themed goods, including books, clothing, and other products with cannabis-related images or slogans.
Christopher Mennillo, the co-owner of Prohibition, a chain of headshops based in the Montreal area, said it doesn’t make sense that he had to stop selling cannabis merchandise after 2018’s federal legalization of cannabis. He added that he does not oppose the provincial ban on cannabis advertising.
“After 35 years of selling a product, we weren’t expecting for it to become illegal with legalization. … You can’t sell a t-shirt that has 420 on it, for example. … A t-shirt is one thing, but what do you say about books? It’s illegal to sell an educational book on cannabis because it’s a total ban.” – Mennillo to the Press
Charles Gravel, the lawyer for the government argued to the Quebec Superior Court that the ban was necessary to reduce the harmful effects of cannabis use on the public, comparing it to the province’s restrictions on tobacco advertising. He contended that the argument the ban infringes on freedom of expression is incorrect because, “At the moment, someone who walks in the street with a shirt with a cannabis leaf that says ‘smoke more,’ ‘smoke every day,’ ‘wake and bake,’ whatever” is “in violation of nothing.”
Gravel argued that even if those shirts are only sold to adults, they would be seen by young people and could encourage youth to use cannabis.
The trial concluded on Thursday and Justice Marc St-Pierre said he planned to deliberate before rendering his decision.
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