Lawyers warn CAQ to Expect Legal Challenges If Legal Cannabis Age Is Raised to 21
Legal experts have said that the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party’s proposal to amend the legal cannabis age in Quebec, from 18 to 21, would lead to legal challenges due to the fact that it infringes section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which forbids discrimination based on age.”If it goes into law, I’m convinced there is going to be an argument made.”Said Quebec lawyer Mathieu St-Onge
“The basic question is, should the Quebec government increase the age of consumption of cannabis but not anything else? Is there a little bit of hypocrisy in saying you can drink alcohol, you can go to a strip club, you can vote, but you can’t consume cannabis? You can do a lot of things in Quebec at 18,” said St-Onge, who practices in Montreal firm De GrandpréJoli-Coeur quoted in the National Observer.
If the CAQ succeeds on this move, it would make Quebec the province with the highest minimum age for consumption of Cannabis in the whole of Canada. This can only happen if the party wins and fulfills its campaign promises. Currently their results at the polls are almost on tie with the governing Liberal party.The election date is only about three weeks prior to the date when cannabis is legalized federally; this means that if the CAQ wins, the part would have only about 21 days to change the law before the deadline.
Simon Jolin-Barette, CAQ MNA for the Montérégie-area riding of Borduas, speaking to National Observer, said that his party, if elected, would table an amendment to the existing law “as soon as possible,” but he conceded that “it might be” after the Oct. 17 day of legalization. It would also amend the existing law to ban consumption in public places.
The Bill 157, Quebec’s cannabis law, which put the legal cannabis age at 18, was passed in June. Every other provinces and territories have adopted a minimum age limit of 18 or 19 as the legal age for cannabis consumption whenever the law is finally passed.
The CAQ’s reason for this move, according to Jolin-Barette,is that “as a government and as a society, we have a responsibility to not trivialize cannabis consumption, and send a clear message to young people that smoking marijuana has serious consequences for your health.”
Kirk Tousaw, a cannabis lawyer based in British Columbia quoted in the reports says this would not be an easy feat for the CAQ to achieve, “Can you imagine being an elected representative in a province and thinking that one of the most important things that you need to do in your first three weeks in office is raise the age at which adults can possess cannabis and criminalize a whole generation of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds?”
The Parti Québécois through its spokesperson, Valérie Chamula,opposed this plan by the CAQ stating that raising the legal age for cannabis consumption would only encourage young people between 18-20 “to continue to buy drugs from organized crime.”