The Quebec government tabled legislation Wednesday that would impose the strictest cannabis controls in the country, raising the legal age to 21.
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Bill 2 would also prohibit cannabis consumption in all public places, including parks and streets.
“There’s 31 per cent of 18 to 24’s who are smoking it right now,” said André Fortin, an MNA with the Quebec Liberals.
“We want to make sure that if they do make the unfortunate choice to smoke it that they have access to a product with a lower THC content, that they can talk to someone at the SQDC before consuming the product.”
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Increasing the legal age to 21 from 18 was one of the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ)’s main campaign promises leading up to its Oct. 1 victory.
“The Hells Angels or the mob is going to sell the product to them, so it’s not a good thing at all,” argued Pascal Bérubé, interim leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ).
“You don’t have any guarantee in the quality and we feel that it’s a bad message to send to the society.”
Lionel Carmant, the junior health minister, has said he is worried about the effects of cannabis on the still-developing brains of young adults.
“I am convinced that the measures we are proposing today will have the effect of stopping many young people,” he said
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Carmant, a neurologist, has said he hopes to have the law adopted by March.
The federal law legalizing cannabis consumption sets the minimum age at 18 but gives provinces the power to increase it. In all other provinces and territories, the legal age is 18 or 19.
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In Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante said she was “extremely disappointed” with the provincial bill, saying it undermines the city’s autonomy.
Plante noted that in a city where 60 per cent of residents are renters and can be denied the right to smoke by landlords, prohibiting smoking in public places leaves nowhere for them to consume a legal product.
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Raising the legal age to 21 is also a mistake, Plante said, because younger consumers will end up buying on a black market that is not subject to any controls.
Plante said municipal police resources would be better employed dealing with public safety and crime instead of “checking what someone is smoking on a street corner.” She noted that no particular public safety issues have arisen since the Oct. 17 legalization.
— With files from Global’s Raquel Fletcher