I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm an open lover of the little green leaf – and I've been a supporter of cannabis legalization long before I'd ever even tried the stuff. I think it's important that, as a society, we always keep in mind why laws have been put in place... but also when and why they can sometimes cease to benefit us as a nation.
TL;DR The CAQ is following through on campaign promises to raise the minimum age for cannabis consumption to 21 and ban pot smoking in public.
It was a step in the right direction when the federal government decided to decisively move away from the so-called "war on drugs." Patients that require medicial marijuana can now access it more easily than ever, and those individuals that found themselves on the wrong side of the law can now openly and shamelessly participate in recreational use.
However, even with the federal go-ahead, Canadians have spent the last couple months having to grapple with their specific provincial legislation, which can sometimes be confusing.
Quebec, for example, coupled strict rules for the distribution of cannabis with a rather liberal attitude toward private, recreational use.
But those regulations, of course, passed under the last provincial government. The new CAQ majority in the National Assembly has vowed to institute strict new laws, including a ban on smoking in public and an increase of the minimum age for legal consumption from 18 to 21. Today, after the CAQ introduced new legislation, those measures are closer than ever to becoming law.
Legault has been crystal clear about his motivations behind these changes: he's hoping to protect youth from the substance's potentially harmful side effects. This is important, no question, but it makes me wonder what he's planning to do about tobacco, a well-known producer of deadly side effects.
During a question period he took the time to "send a clear message" to Quebec youth: "it's dangerous, the consumption of cannabis. It can bring along serious problems like schizophrenia. So please, don't use it."
Here's what we know so far about the bill that was tabled earlier today:
- The legal age for possession and consumption would be 21 years old — three years older than the legal age for cigarettes and alcohol. This will be the highest legal age for consumption in Canada.
- New SQDC locations will not be able to open within 250 meters of schools, cegeps, or universities.
- Smoking cannabis will be banned in all public places, including streets, parks, and sports fields — so when you head to TamTams, you'll have to leave your joints behind... but your friends can smoke their cigarettes and drink their beers no problem.
- Cannabis is prohibited on any campus property (except in private dorm rooms, which, of course, are governed by universities' own cannabis rules).
Critics point out that these new measures will only foster the marijuana black market and undermine one of the central goals of legalization.
While I don't entirely disagree with the motivation behind Legault's decisions, I do have some questions and concerns. Some of those stem from the blatant double standards between cannabis and other legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol.
Stay tuned for more cannabis and CAQ-related news.