By Emily Ledger
Lawmakers in the Quebec province of Canada have passed a bill to raise the age for legal Cannabis use to 21, over a year after legalisation. The policy change will see young people unable to purchase or use Cannabis products legally. This is despite having already had access to the market for 12 months.
The aim of raising the age is to “protect young, developing brains from potential harm”. However, critics argue that the decision will, in fact, have more negative effects. Many expect that young Cannabis users will simply be pushed to the black market, where products tend to be unregulated.
A lack of regulation in the illegal Cannabis market usually leads to higher potencies and less safe products.
Francois Limoges, a spokesperson for the Quebec Cannabis Industry Association (QCIA), said:
“We are, as an inudustry, totally disappointed by the government’s decision.”
The QCIA is a representative body of the province’s legal Cannabis businesses.
The new law, which is expected to come into effect on January 1st, 2020, will be the highest age limitation in the country. As it stands, the legal Cannabis use age in most provinces is 19. Quebec and Alberta are the only provinces with the younger legal age of 18.
When Cannabis use was legalised last year, the federal Canadian government set the minimum Cannabis use age at 18. However, provinces were permitted to change the age in their province.
Quebec’s association of public health also criticised the decision, claiming it was lacking a scientific basis. Critics have also pointed to evidence that has shown Cannabis use to be no more dangerous than alcohol use. The legal age for alcohol consumption in Quebec remains at 18.
Marianna Dessureault, a spokesperson for the Association of Public Health, commented:
“We are going ahead and maybe transforming a law that sought to protect public health, towards a law that has more of a political favour.”
The Quebec government has been accused of being “stuck in the old ways of thinking”. Many believe that the age rise is due to the stigma that remains around Cannabis, particularly among the more conservative, despite a year of legalisation.
Newly re-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his disagreement with the province’s plans to raise the age of legal Cannabis use, last year. In an exchange with reporters, Trudeau expressed a concern that raising the legal age to 21 would leave an opening for organised crime.
Quebec province has also delayed the introduction of the so-called ‘Cannabis 2.0‘ – the name given to the legalisation of Cannabis extracts, topicals, and edibles. Initial Cannabis legalisation did not permit the use or sale of these products. However, the country launched the inclusion of these products on October 17th – exactly one year after initial Cannabis legalisation.
The Quebec government is expected to delay the introduction of the amendment until mid-December, at least.
In an even further deviation from the federal government, Quebec has also sought to prohibit the home cultivation of Cannabis plants. Under federal law, Canadian citizens are permitted to cultivate up to four plants per household.
However, the federal government and courts invalidated the province’s attempt at prohibition. The Quebec government has made steps to appeal the decision.