Quebec Passes Bill 2, Raising Legal Age for Cannabis to 21

Cannabis law in Quebec is about to change. As of January 1st, one of the most vulnerable age groups will no longer be able to legally purchase cannabis products. The Quebec provincial government has just passed a bill which will change the legal age to use cannabis from 18 to 21, and the action is being met with criticism from all sides.

Quebec’s coalition government has passed Bill 2, which will raise the minimum legal consumption age for cannabis from 18 to 21, beginning January 1st, 2020. Also included in the bill, the possession of cannabis in or around post-secondary education institutions such as colleges and universities will be prohibited, with the exception of student dorms and residences. Moreover, the bill also expands on the minimum 250 meter distance of cannabis retail outlets from public schools to also include said post-secondary institutions. The bill also prohibits the smoking of cannabis products in public areas such as roads, sidewalks, and parks.

Although the bill passed with a 64 to 43 vote, it has been met with criticism from the federal government, the Quebec Cannabis Industry Association, investors in the cannabis sector, and the general public. Justin Trudeau denounced the bill, stating that it will open a volatility for organized crime, and goes against the federal government’s objective of eliminating the black market.

The Quebec Cannabis Industry Association (QCIA) which represents Cannabis companies in Quebec regulated under the Cannabis Act, disagrees with Bill 2, indicating that it directs susceptible consumers towards the illicit market. QCIA spokesperson Francois Limoges claims that young consumers currently purchasing legal cannabis will turn to the black market, because they are not going to wait until they are 21 years of age. This move will then make it difficult for the government “to bring them back into the legal market” once they do meet the new legal age requirements.

The public has also voiced their concern with the passing of Bill 2, stating that it further impedes their already-restricted cannabis use. Approximately two thirds of Quebec residents rent or lease housing accommodations, and are subject to landlords banning cannabis use inside the property. With Bill 2 prohibiting cannabis smoking in outdoor places such as sidewalks, roads, and public common areas, tenants fear they will no longer have anywhere to smoke cannabis products, and will have to instead turn to less-preferred alternatives such as oils or capsules.

It brings up questions, that this week an 18-year-old could go buy cannabis legally, but in a few months may have to go to the Hells Angels to buy it. Those are questions the government will have to answer to.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, December 2018.

Although the purpose of the bill is to tighten regulation of cannabis, as well as safeguard the developing brains of youth against cannabis-associated risks, it does not align with the federal government’s policy objectives regarding cannabis legalization. When the Liberal government introduced the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), it did so with the intention of meeting 3 main objectives: eliminating the illicit market, impeding youth access, and protecting the public by supplying a safe and controlled substance. Quebec’s Bill 2 contradicts the federal government’s main target of youth cannabis consumption, and ultimately dismantling the black market.

As per the 2017 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, individuals between ages 18 and 24 are the most susceptible to cannabis use; proposing the legal cannabis consumption age to 18 is said to ensure that those who do consume cannabis, have access to a safe and controlled substance which is not obtained from the illicit market. With Quebec setting the legal consumption age to 21, the federal government’s mitigation efforts on youth cannabis use and illicit market elimination will be undermined. Meanwhile, the consumption age for alcohol remains at 18 despite health risks.

When the federal government introduced Bill C-45, it did so with the intention of allowing provincial jurisdictions to determine the legal consumption age, as well as the retail model with regards to consumer access to cannabis. With the passing of Bill 2, Quebec will have one of the strictest provincial cannabis regulations in Canada.

The Quebec provincial government is concurrently in a battle to prohibit edibles and cannabis-infused beverage sales even though they became legal for sale federally on October 17th.

Information for this briefing was found via the National Assembly of Quebec. The author has no securities or affiliations related to any organization mentioned. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.