With a cannabis age of 21, what will happen to Quebec’s young cannabis workers?

Customers line up at a government cannabis store in Montreal on Oct. 18, 2018. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

As of New Year’s Day, Quebecers under 21 won’t be legally allowed to do anything with cannabis — buy it, smoke it or eat it.

That puts a small number of young Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) store employees — those who will be underage at the end of this year — in a strange position.

“At that time, we will have a handful of employees who are under 21,” says SQDC spokesperson Fabrice Giguère. “We have some now whose birthdays are between now and Jan. 1.”

A provision in Bill 2, passed by the National Assembly last week, exempts them from some of its provisions.

They will be allowed to handle cannabis containers and sell cannabis to their elders.

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But they won’t be legally allowed to consume any themselves, though it’s part of their jobs to give customers product advice. SQDC store employees have a job title of “adviser,” and a major part of the job, postings say, is “providing appropriate and quality information.”

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These employees will be allowed to use their experience using cannabis from back when they were old enough to consume it, even though they will, after the end of 2019, be too young.

If they quit their jobs, they will no longer be allowed to enter an SQDC store until they turn 21.

They may also find themselves refusing service to underaged customers who are older than they are.

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Going forward, the SQDC will only hire people who will be 21 by the end of this year, Giguère said.

“That would be a bit of a cheap shot if we hire someone who is 18 and they can only stay up until Jan. 1,” Giguère said.

What’s much less clear is what will happen to young workers at licensed producers in Quebec. Quebec’s law will forbid people under 21 from possessing cannabis, and it’s not clear whether, for example, people under 21 in Quebec will be able to do jobs like caring for cannabis plants, trimming dried flower or packaging cannabis.

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Global News reached out to three licensed producers with operations in Quebec to ask about where their young employees stand after Jan. 1 and how many there are.

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“We are currently evaluating Bill 2 and any implications that it may have on our business,” said Hexo spokesperson Isabelle Robillard. “We look forward to sharing more information as it becomes available.”

Hexo’s main growing facility is in Gatineau, where it has 1.3 million square feet of operating space.

Aurora spokesperson Laura Gallant referred Global News to a statement by the Quebec Cannabis Industry Association opposing Bill 2.

“We don’t have any additional comment on the development at this time,” she wrote in an email.

Aurora operates several grow facilities in Quebec.

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The Green Organic Dutchman is building an 820,000-square-foot growing facility in Valleyfield, Que., in part because of access to cheap hydroelectric power. Nobody who works there is under 21, said TGOD communications director Sebastien Bouchard.

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Another change in the law now bars cannabis stores near colleges and universities, a limit that originally only applied to secondary schools.

One SQDC store in Quebec City near a CEGEP will have to move as a result, Giguère said. The law gives affected stores a grace period until the end of their leases.

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