New bill would raise minimum age for cannabis to 21, ban pot in all public places
Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 21 who are currently enjoying legal cannabis shouldn’t get too used to the buzz. On Wednesday, the provincial government tabled a new bill that will increase the minimum age to buy and use legal pot products.
The bill would also ban cannabis products from all public places in the province, including parks and playgrounds. Several of Montreal's boroughs have already moved to ban pot smoking from public spaces, as has the City of Hampstead.
Premier Francois Legault's hard line doesn’t come as a surprise, as his Coalition Avenir Quebec campaigned on raising the minimum age. The new administration acted quickly – the bill is just the second tabled by the party since coming into power.
Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant, who is a trained pediatric neurologist, introduced Bill 2. In the past, Carmant has repeatedly said he’s concerned about the effects of cannabis on young brains.
The bill will undergo a series of short consultations before coming into effect.
Quebec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Masse criticized the move, saying it will just turn young pot-smokers to the black market.
"For us, it's not acceptable," she said. "We don't understand why the CAQ still follows this idea, because we want to protect our children and give them the possibility of going to the legal sector."
It was a stance echoed by interim Parti Quebecois leader Pascal Berube.
"The Hells Angels or the mob are going to sell the product to them, so it's not a good thing at all," he said. "You don't have any guarantee in the quality and we feel it's a bad message to send to society."
The CAQ also drew fire for their choice to announce the details of the legislation at a high school, with Liberal MNA Gaetan Barrette saying the government is engaging in political theatre.
"Clearly, we understand there are a lot of people coming from Stephen Harper's government counselling them," he said.
- With files from The Canadian Press