Toronto- after a year of being able to purchase cannabis legally from age 18, Quebecers will now have to wait until they turn 21. The provincial government has passed a bill changing the legal age to use marijuana, a move critics say will drive the black market.
The Coalition Avenue Quebec government adopted bill 2, which raises the legal age for cannabis consumption from 18 to 21 as of Jan. 1, 2020. It will become the biggest legal age for cannabis use in the country.
The legal cannabis use age in Alberta is 18, the same age as the drinking age there.
Quebec’s junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant, who tables the bill, has said that it was created to protect the young, developing brains from the risks associated with cannabis use. Critics say that raising the legal age will only will only increase the risk of young consumers purchasing cannabis legally.
Francois Limoges, a spokesperson for the Quebec Cannabis Industry Association (OCIA), said the main issue with raising the legal age to 21 is that it will only push young consumers who are previously able to purchase cannabis legally into the arms of the black market.
“We are as an industry totally disappointed by the government’s decision,” he told MTV news.ca in a phone interview.
QCIA represents cannabis companies within Quebec that are regulated and provide legal marijuana. They released a statement criticizing the Quebec government’s choice only moments after the bill passed.
Limoges pointed out that the one main drivers behind the federal government’s decision to legalize cannabis in 2018 was a desire to crack down on the black market and protect Canadians by insuring that cannabis available to them was regulated and safe.
Limoges said “you’re pretty much telling the younger generation that You want to protect, well go back to your dealers, or find a dealer, because they’ve been buying legal cannabis for the last 12 months. When youre younger adult you’re not going to wait (to turn 21). With this move, it will be hard to bring them into the legal market, once they have reached the now legal age.”
Quebec’s association of public health has also criticized the bill, with spokesperson Marianne Dessureault saying it lacks a scientific basis.
Quebec happens to have one of the lowest legal ages for alcohol consumption in the country. Most provinces and territories have set 19 as the legal age that consumers can legally purchase alcohol, but in Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta, it is 18. When it comes to alcohol, the “social census in the province,” is that 18 year olds are adults who can make their own choices,” Limoges Said, but he believes there is a “stigma” around cannabis that insures it is viewed differently than alcohol.
Quebec’s cannabis laws are some of the strictest in Canada, while Ottawa legalized THC and CBD products including edibles, beverages, capes and topical forms of Cannabis on Oct. 17, exactly one year after Canada legalized marijuana use, Quebec has delayed the process.
The province’s cannabis dispensary, the SQDC, said earlier this month that it expects the second wave of legalization to be gradual starting in mid-December with products that “should be mainly beverages,” including teas, carbonated water and non alcoholic beers.