Young Quebecers will have to wait until they turn 21 to legally purchase cannabis under a new law passed by the provincial government.
The new legislation adopted Tuesday by the Coalition Avenir Québec government of Premier François Legault raises the legal age for cannabis consumption from 18 to 21 on Jan. 1, 2020, making it the highest age limit in Canada.
In other provinces and territories, young people can legally purchase cannabis at age 19, except in Alberta, where the legal age is 18.
Lionel Carmant, the province’s junior health minister, said the goal is to send a “clear message” about the government’s priorities.
“We really want to protect our teenagers, which are most vulnerable to cannabis,” he said, adding that the increased age limit has the support of the majority of Quebecers.
However, the idea of raising the age limit has come under criticism from some Quebec health professionals, industry groups and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Critics of the move say that raising the age limit will simply drive young Quebecers to purchase their pot on the black market, instead of using the provincially run cannabis stores.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the opposition Québec Solidaire, said the law was “creating two classes of adults,” pointing out that 18-year-olds can vote but won’t be able to decide whether they want to purchase cannabis.
The provincial government is also set to ban cannabis candies and desserts, as cannabis edibles become legal in the rest of the country in mid-December.
The federal government legalised recreational use of marijuana on Oct. 17, 2018.
Quebec also plans to fight a lower court ruling that overturned the provincial government’s ban on growing cannabis at home. Under federal rules, Canadians are allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants for personal consumption.
With files from CBC News