Want pot? Hire a babysitter. Quebec law bans youths under 18 from cannabis shops
Quebec's cannabis bill was adopted by the National Assembly on Tuesday, but not everyone is feeling the buzz.
In a tight vote, 61 MNAs from a coalition of Liberals and Quebec Solidaire voted for the bill, while 46 others, belonging to the Parti Quebecois and Coalition Avenir Quebec, voted against.
The lack of support from the PQ, who had backed the bill up until Monday, left Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois fuming.
"This is not the type of bill for people to worry about their little egos and play political games," she said. "Everything was going well until yesterday and now they're voting against the bill."
Bill 157 establishes a framework for producing, selling and consuming marijuana in the province and comes as Ottawa is expected to legalize recreational cannabis by the end of the summer.
The House of Commons has approved many of the amendments made by the Senate, but has so far rejected the Senate's amendment that clarifies provinces should be able to ban individuals from growing cannabis at home.
PQ party leader Jean-Francois Lisée said Tuesday morning that he would like the Couillard government to ban the use of marijuana in public spaces and that the bill gives too much power to municipalities.
"It's going to be a free for all from city to city to see in which public places you're allowed to consume," he said.
He also recommended that Quebec, not Ottawa, manage the production and distribution of cannabis.
Abandoning Quebec's agricultural sector is "unacceptable," Lisee said, adding that he is concerned about potential links between cannabis producers and tax havens.
CAQ MNA Eric Caire said his party couldn't back the bill, given that it sets the legal age for cannabis consumption at 18 and not 21.
Charlebois admitted the bill has imperfections but that after months of consultations and 140 amendments, it adds up to a responsible approach.
A new government-controlled body will be set up to manage outlets that sell marijuana products.
"We're going to make [sure] that nobody younger than 18 years old can get it in a shop," said Charlebois. "If you go with your kids, you won't be able to bring the kid. It's not like when you buy some alcohol and you can bring your kid. It won't be possible in those shops."
Users will be restricted to keeping amounts lower than 150 grams in their homes and Quebecers won't be permitted to grow their own pot plants, something that is permitted in the federal bill.
"We don't know, maybe in three years we'll say one or two plants," said Charlebois. "I don't know, but for a start, people asked us to be more restrictive, so we did it."
The government is also planning to spend $25 million annually over the next five years on prevention and research and said there will be zero tolerance for driving under the influence.