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Cannabis: Why Quebec Raised the Legal Age to 21

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In recent news, Quebec passed a bill to raise the legal age for cannabis consumption from 18 to 21. This new rule should become effective on January 1, 2020. The new rule is the strictest version in Canada. Generally, the legal age for cannabis consumption in Canada is 19 except for in Alberta, where it is 18.

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History of the legislation

The bill for tightening the regulations, known as Bill 2, was introduced on December 5, 2018. Lionel Carmant, Minister for Health and Social Services, proposed the bill.

François Legault promised to raise the legal age of cannabis users during his provincial election campaign. The Legault-led Coalition Avenir Québec won and formed the government. On October 31, 2019, Legault’s government used its majority to pass Bill 2, which received almost 60% of the votes. Starting on January 1, 2020, the legal age to use recreational marijuana will be 21 in Quebec.

What are the new changes in Quebec?

  • The legal age to purchase or to use recreational cannabis in Quebec is 21. The bill prohibits any person younger than 21 from buying, using, or possessing cannabis.
  • The bill bans the use of recreational cannabis in public. Public places also include anywhere a person younger than 21 years is present.
  • The bill bans the sale of creams for skin, hair, and nails that contain cannabis.
  • The new regulations require plain, child-resistant packaging for cannabis-infused edibles like gummies and candies to avoid being attractive to minors.
  • The THC content of liquid cannabis edibles should not exceed 5 mg. However, federal law allows up to 10 mg.
  • The initial bill banned growing cannabis at home. The judge overruled this part of the bill. Legault announced that he would appeal this provision.
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Why is there a change?

The change in Quebec’s regulations is aimed at informing teenagers about the health risks that cannabis presents to minors. Carmant noted that he was concerned about the impact of marijuana on the developing brains of young people.

“I want to send a clear message to all young people. Please, don’t use pot. It’s not good, it’s dangerous,” noted Quebec Premier François Legault.

Many psychiatrists, physicians, and other specialists have shown their support for the bill. Although Quebec Liberal Party member André Fortin didn’t approve of the new regulations, he acknowledged the health risks associated with cannabis products. The new rules are also aimed at protecting young people from accidental poisoning.

What do critics say about the new Quebec law?

Although the bill has been passed, it has been widely criticized. Critics expressed concern that the bill would push young adults toward the black market. Buying products through illegal sources has proven to be dangerous and even fatal. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, worries that this rule could give way to organized crime.

Many argue that this rule creates inconsistent classes of adults. The legal age for smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol is still 18 in Quebec. However, the new regulation only changes the minimum age for cannabis use. This disparity triggers the debate about which substances are more harmful to the health of young adults. Many citizens of Quebec believe that protecting the mental and physical health of the younger generation is important and that the final choice should rest with adults.

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