I think its important to send a strong message that we want to protect our youth, said Junior Health and Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant Wednesday on his way into a cabinet meeting.
Carmant confirmed the CAQs plan to prioritize the file, saying the government was working on legislation to fulfill the electoral promise.
He also said he would be in charge of the dossier, instead of Justice Minister Sonia Lebel, whom Premier Francois Legault said last week would be in charge of changing cannabis legalization legislation.
Carmant, who is a doctor, said the main goal was to protect the developing minds of children and young adults.
"We are worried about psychiatric complications involving children," he said. Theres obviously evidence that it can lead to damage when its used below the age of 25, so were going to pick 21 as an age which is responsible for everyone.
Dasi Menakadasi holds a handful of dried marijuana flowers on the day recreational cannabis became legal, in Vancouver, on Wednesday October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The changes would not kick in immediately, but “we are aiming to do it within the first hundred days” in office, the junior health minister says.
QUEBEC — The new Coalition Avenir Québec government plans to tighten the rules on cannabis consumption, including increasing the legal age to consume to 21 from 18, within 100 days.
Confirming he will be the one handling the issue, junior health minister Lionel Carmant said the government considers the issue a question of public health and will act as soon as it can to change the rules created by the previous Liberal regime.
Carmant said he will “do everything in his power” to present legislation imposing the CAQ vision on the cannabis issue during the short pre-Christmas sitting of the legislature, which will start Nov. 27.
But with the normal holiday break and other legislative hurdles, that means the changes would not kick in immediately.
“We are aiming to do it within the first hundred days (in office),” Carmant told reporters arriving for a meeting of the CAQ caucus. “By the month of March seems reasonable.”
There had been confusion over which of Premier François Legault’s 26 ministers would handle the issue. At last week’s swearing in of the new cabinet, Legault indicated Justice Minister Sonia LeBell would have the tricky file.
That changed Wednesday with Carmant being told he is in charge. The previous Liberal government had a similar approach, with junior health minister Lucie Charlebois responsible.
“After discussions, we found it is is an issue of public health, especially protecting the health of our children,” Carmant said. “So I am honoured to take on this issue.”
For more than a year the CAQ has been saying it wants to increase the legal age to consume pot to 21 from 18 and to ban consumption in public places.
It also wants a greater distance between outlets of the Société québécoise du cannabis stores selling the product and schools.
Carmant repeated scientific studies that show young people are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of cannabis, since their brains are not fully developed before the age of 25.
“It’s a little like alcohol,” he said. “If we leave the age at 18, it does not take long before 16-year-olds consume with their friends, their parents,” he said. “We want to avoid this practice becoming commonplace, we want to prevent the long term harmful effects.”