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Quebec provincial police create squad to crack down on contraband cannabis


MONTREAL — Quebec provincial police say they'll continue to crack down on the illegal production of cannabis as consumption is set to become legal across the country in less than a month.

The force announced a new unit Tuesday that will fight illegal cannabis growers and traffickers and is modelled on existing programs against alcohol smuggling and illegal tobacco products.

Right now, the application of the law is fairly simple, but police say that will change in a month.

"Cannabis is a drug, and it's still relatively simple at the application level," Capt. Dany Dufour said of the current situation. "You have neither the right to own, nor the right to consume, sell, produce or traffic in it, so the application is relatively simple."

The Cannabis Act comes into effect Oct. 17, making recreational use of cannabis legal.

Different laws will come into effect in each province. In Quebec, a provincial law adopted in June stipulates that cultivating cannabis for personal purposes is illegal.

Quebecers will be able to purchase cannabis online or in stores of the provincially run corporation, an independently run subsidiary of the Quebec Liquor Corp.

Dufour said certain activities that fall outside the legal framework will remain subject to criminal or penal offences such as production, possession for the purpose of trafficking, selling on the black market as well as importing and exporting cannabis.

"By legalizing a substance ... it becomes framed by different laws," Dufour said. "So for cannabis, there will be a federal law, but also a provincial law. Some municipal bylaws may also be applied."

The new unit will include 54 new members from provincial and municipal forces across the province who will combat illegal production, distribution and smuggling — with online smuggling schemes a priority.

Dufour says the unit will be operational by Oct. 1.

Caroline St-Pierre, The Canadian Press

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