Quebec will now be the first of the ten Canadian provinces to raise the legal cannabis consumption age to 21. Just last week, the province’s National Assembly voted 64 to 43 in favor of passing Bill 2 to increase the cannabis consumption age. The new legislation is set to take effect on January 1, 2020.

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Public consumption is also banned under the incoming law; consumption of cannabis will only be allowed on private property. Previously, adults ages 18 and older were allowed to buy and consume cannabis across the province of Quebec. Interestingly, with all of this hype about cannabis consumption, alcohol and tobacco are permitted at the age of 18 in Quebec.

According to Québec Solidaire spokesman, Gabriel Nadeu-Dubois, said that the decision will produce “two classes of adults” in Quebec. The majority of provinces in Canada have set the cannabis consumption age at 19, including British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. Alberta now remains the only province with the legal cannabis consumption age being 18.

Proponents of the new legislation, including Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant, argue that the bill is intended to protect young brains from the potential harm caused by marijuana use. The new legislation has received significant opposition following its announcement. Even the Canadian health department disagrees with the move.

Spokeswoman for Quebec’s Association of Public Health, Marianne Dessureault, said in a recent interview, “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. It’s concerning. It’s clear that (the bill) has populist appeal and that it doesn’t have its place in public health policy.”

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Other critics opposed to the new law believe that the move to increase the legal age of cannabis consumption will only motivate grey- and black-market cannabis sales.

Quebec Cannabis Industry Association (QCIA) spokesperson, Francois Limoges, told, “We are as an industry totally disappointed by the government’s decision. You’re pretty much telling the younger generation that you wanna protect, well, ‘go back to your dealers’ – or ‘find a dealer’ – because they’ve been buying legal cannabis for the last 12 months and as we know, when you’re a younger adult you’re not going to wait (to turn 21).”

A statement by QCIA president, Michel Temperio, posted shortly after the bill’s passage, reads: “The government’s motives are surprising in this approach. Note that public health officials and safety experts who advised the federal government over the implementation of cannabis legalization in the country, as well as many Quebec organizations specializing in cannabis, have advocated for a harm reduction approach by recommending that the minimum age be set at 18 years old.”

Harm reduction is a unique and promising model for approaching issues like recreational drug use. The Canadian Public Health Association has published a list of resources regarding cannabis and harm reduction. You can also find an updated list of Canadian cannabis laws here.

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