While most jurisdictions considering changes to cannabis laws in North America are trending toward relaxing restrictions, Quebec just reminded us that this trend is not universal and there are still strong opposition forces. This week, the provincial government passed a law that raises the legal consumption age from 18 to 21 effective January 1, 2020. All other provinces permit cannabis use at 19, except in Alberta where the legal age is 18.
Quebec’s junior health minister cited a familiar rationale for the change. “We really want to protect our teenagers, which are most vulnerable to cannabis,” said Lionel Carmant. When the legislation was first proposed last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke out against it. He believes that teenagers that are no longer allowed to legally purchase cannabis will turn to the illicit market, or as he put it, turn “to the Hells Angels to buy it.”
The vote to increase the legal age in Quebec aligns with other cannabis laws in place for Quebecers. The province prohibits the sale of edibles, allows for possession of only a small amount of cannabis, and outlaws home grow (which is being challenged in court). Despite these relatively stringent laws, Quebec consumers purchased $71 million worth of cannabis from the government cannabis store network in the first five months of operation.
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