By Alessandro Mortellaro
Are you 18 to 21 years old? Do you enjoy legal cannabis? If so, you’re not going to like the law recently passed under François Legault’s government: Bill 2, titled the “Cannabis Regulation Act”. The bill entitles that the legal age to buy and possess cannabis in Quebec will be pushed from 18 to 21. This will make Quebec the only province to have this age restriction, as the highest previous restriction, amongst several provinces, was 19.
The bill will also ban the sale of any cannabis edibles that may appeal to children (chocolates, gummies, brownies, etc). Tighter restrictions will be put on consuming the substance in public, although municipalities will be free to change this.
When Bill 2 was first proposed a year ago, Justin Trudeau warned that it would simply act as an opportunity for the black market to thrive, and that it would push teens “to the Hell’s Angels to buy [cannabis].” The Association Québécois de l’industrie du cannabis (AQIC) agrees, and says that the law is against the original purpose of legalization itself, which was to eradicate black market cannabis altogether. Getting cannabis from the street is always a risk, as there is a chance of it being contaminated with other substances that are far more harmful, such as fentanyl.
On the other hand, the Legault government claims that they are looking out for teenagers. Lionel Carmant, Quebec’s junior health minister, says they “really want to protect [their] teenagers, which are most vulnerable to cannabis.” The vulnerability he is referring to is the fact that people below the age of 25 are at risk of hindering their brain development from cannabis use.
“At 18, or even younger, you can serve in the army, you can do all sorts of things. [The new bill] is patronizing, and it’s age discrimination.”
It seems as though there is a good argument in support of both sides of the Cannabis Regulation Act. Both of them, however, show that there are risks to consuming cannabis at a young age, no matter what the law is. With that being said, shouldn’t we aim for a future where young people shouldn’t have the desire to smoke at all? Should the government’s focus be on legislation or education? Also, is this law discriminatory against young adults who already make other major decisions regarding their health?
A survey was sent out to Dawson students, and out of those who answered, 71% were bothered by the new bill. An anonymous responder says, “The bill is patronizing young adults by denying them right and ownership over their own body and choices. If an 18-year-old can buy cigarettes and booze legally, they should be allowed to smoke pot.” Some gave similar responses, and even reasoned that alcohol is “as detrimental as weed.” Other responders who were bothered by the law mentioned that it would “incite 18 to 21-year-olds to buy weed illegally.” The other 29% of responders who were unbothered by the new bill simply said that they “didn’t care about it,” or that they were unaffected because they didn’t smoke.
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Julius Grey, lawyer and human rights activist, said that the new law is “flagrantly unconstitutional.” He says that “at 18, or even younger, you can serve in the army, you can do all sorts of things. [The new bill] is patronizing, and it’s age discrimination.” Grey also mentioned that he isn’t sure if the law passes the Section 1 test of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that it could be challenged as soon as someone is charged after the first of January 2020, the day the law will go into effect.
If Grey is right, it appears that there is a chance for the law to be thrown out. This also means that for those of us who do feel “patronized” by this new bill (cannabis users or not), there may still be hope to regain the freedom to consume clean cannabis, no matter how detrimental to our health it may be.