As the Quebec government prepares to introduce new legislation that would raise the minimum legal age for cannabis consumption from 18 to 21, experts have begun speaking out against the move.
Quebec already has one of the strictest cannabis regimes in Canada, and if the provincial government has its way, buying legal weed in the province is only going to get harder. On Wednesday, the province will hold a hearing regarding Bill 2, which would make it illegal for anyone under 21 to buy cannabis. While government officials claim the move will protect youth, experts are concerned that it will have the opposite effect.
"I am worried that we are going ahead and maybe transforming a law that sought to protect public health, towards a law that has more of a political flavor," Marianne Dessureault—spokeswoman for Quebec's Association of Public Health—told The GrowthOp. "It's concerning. It's clear the bill has a populist appeal and that it doesn't have its place in public health policy."
Raising the age limit is unlikely to have any health benefits, but it will prop up the black market, according to Bastien Quirion - Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa.
"One hundred years of cannabis prohibition show that it's not through banning it that we are going to eradicate the practice or prevent risky behavior," he said. "It will just put certain groups in a precarious position."
Instead of raising the minimum age, some public health groups have proposed a compromise where people between the ages of 18 and 20 are only permitted to buy lower-strength products. No details on what a program like this might look like are available at this time.
"This proposal shows the scientific community, in public health, is trying to give an honorable exit door to the government on its policy," said an anonymous source representing one of the groups who is set to present at Wednesday's hearing.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed his own concern with Quebec's proposed minimum age increase. A number of Quebec doctors have also come out against the legislative change. Despite this, the Quebec government has made no indication that they intend to scrap the plan, and if their previous track record on cannabis policy is anything to go by, they may continue to be unwilling to move on this issue.