What the heck is going on in Quebec? Just a couple weeks ago, Quebec was tied with Alberta for the lowest legal age to buy cannabis in Canada at 18 years old, compared to all the other provinces and territories that went with 19.
But Quebec has now pulled a 180, going in the complete opposite direction to have the highest legal age in the country- 21 years old!
There was a provincial election, and the incumbent Quebec Liberal Party, which was making all the cannabis rules up to that point, lost to the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ). CAQ, for the Anglophones out there, stands for “Coalition for Quebec’s Future” and when it won the Oct. 1st election, it was the first time in over 50 years that a party other than the Quebec Liberals or Parti Quebecois won!
Quebec’s new premier is CAQ leader Francois Legault, and one of his many campaign promises was to severely restrict cannabis, and not only did he promise to raise the legal age, he wants to ban public consumption, although the likelihood that all these laws will be in place by the Oct. 17 legalization date is very slim.
But these are just further restrictions on what was already shaping up to be a tightly controlled cannabis market, as Quebec is also going with the government-monopoly retail model and banning home cultivation.
It’s funny that Quebec and Ontario, Canada’s most populous provinces, have both recently elected new right-leaning governments but when it comes to cannabis, they couldn’t be further apart. In Ontario, the Progressive Conservatives opted to do away with a government monopoly on cannabis retail while also allowing cannabis to be smoked anywhere that tobacco is, although municipalities have the final say on that.
Meet Quebec’s new anti-cannabis premier Francois Legault
Mr. Legault doesn’t like that cannabis is being legalized. He’s been quoted by Vice as saying,
“It’s dangerous, this product, for young people under 25 years old, so we have to make sure that we send the right message. We shouldn’t be trivializing youth cannabis use”.
That is a standard “save the children” talking point for conservatives, but his plan will create a large 3-year gap between Quebec’s legal drinking and cannabis-buying ages, which is 18 and 21, respectively, and that’s not good. Here’s why.
Quebec’s new cannabis plan is a bad idea
Dr. Rebecca J. Haines-Saah, a health sociologist and professor at the University of Calgary, told Vice:
“If we set the (legal) age higher than alcohol, we send the message to youth that alcohol is a ‘safer’ choice—and unfortunately that is just not what the evidence tells us”.
Not only that, it will completely fail to stop the much-maligned black market, especially for the youth demographic, which happens to use cannabis the most. According to the CBC, 42% of Quebec’s cannabis users are between 18-24 years old.
Jean-Sébastien Fallu, an associate professor of psycho-education at Université de Montréal, told CBC:
“If 18 is old enough to vote or drink, it should be old enough to make a decision to consume cannabis.”
And he’s right. The new legal age is patronizing to those under 21.
Not to mention the question of what happens when Quebecois under 21 inevitably hop across that provincial border to grab a few grams of cannabis from say, Ontario, where the legal age is 19.
Will they be fined, charged, or worse?
Someone should get Quebec’s new premier to explain how exactly this protects the youth.