The Quebec government is facing strong opposition on its bill aimed to increase the legal age of cannabis consumption from 18 to 21 and implement a smoking ban in all public areas. The legal age to purchase alcohol and tobacco in Quebec is 18, and according to current laws, Quebec residents have the right to consume cannabis in most public places, including parks and city streets. However, the proposed Bill 2 limits its smoking to private property.
According to Quebec’s Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant, Bill 2 is aimed to protect young people and send a message that smoking cannabis is not a trivial matter. However, the new bill has received a lot of criticism from Quebec’s public health agencies, the raising of age limit of legal cannabis consumption will fail to prevent young people from obtaining cannabis. In addition, the province’s health agencies maintain that prohibiting it from public areas disregards tenants whose landlords have banned smoking, making it difficult to consume a legal product without breaking the law.
According to Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and police chief Sylvain Caron, it would be impossible to enforce the Quebec government’s proposed ban on smoking or vaping cannabis in all public places. “We cannot just tell them go and smoke in your home. It doesn’t necessarily work that way, because for tenants it’s different than if you own your own house,” said Valerie Plante. “That, for me, is where the real problem lies. While the motive may be noble, I’m of the school—and that’s the reason why we’re working with public health—that it’s better to reduce the use and the harm.” Plante added, ““Sixty per cent of Montrealers are renters… The message they are getting is cannabis is legal but you cannot consume it at home or in public spaces.”
Quebec’s former Liberal government previously allowed public consumption of cannabis in places where tobacco was permitted, with certain restrictions, but the new CAQ government aims to enforce stricter rules. In addition, many Quebec municipalities had already implemented new bylaws prohibiting all public consumption of cannabis.
In her interview with Global News, Marianne Dessureault, the spokesperson for Quebec’s association of public health, said: “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 a populist appeal and that it doesn’t have its place in public health policy.”