Overview of the first week of special consultations and public hearings on Bill 2: An Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis
The Quebec government is currently conducting special consultations and public hearings on Bill 2: An Act to tighten the regulation of cannabis, and Langlois lawyers is following the proceedings closely.
The main purposes of the draft legislation are to increase the legal age for the consumption, possession and purchase of cannabis to 21, and to prohibit consumption in public places.
The organization Portage views the provisions of Bill 2 favourably.
Portage agrees with the provisions of Bill 2 increasing the legal age for the consumption, possession and purchase of cannabis to 21, given that the brain can continue to develop until age 25. Postponing the age for consuming cannabis can significantly reduce future dependency problems.
Portage recommends that the government prohibit consumption of cannabis in the same locations as those where alcohol consumption is prohibited, rather than the locations where smoking is prohibited under the Tobacco Control Act.
It stresses the importance of vigilance vis-à-vis the online purchase of cannabis, as it is impossible to exercise the same degree of control over such sales as over those in authorized retail outlets.
Finally, as proposed during the parliamentary debates on the federal draft legislation, Portage wants all revenues from cannabis sales to be used to combat dependency on cannabis.
The Quebec federation of college students, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, opposes some of the provisions of Bill 2.
It does not agree with raising the minimum age for consumption to 21 because that runs counter to the goal of the federal legislation, which is not to increase the consumption of cannabis or heighten its appeal, but to control cannabis products and their sale, to the detriment of the illegal market for them.
The Federation notes that before the legalization of cannabis, people could be imprisoned for consuming or possessing it, yet that had no dissuasive effect on many individuals. It therefore does not believe that merely imposing fines could be dissuasive.
The Federation agrees with prohibiting the consumption of cannabis on college campuses, but not with outlawing its possession there.
Bill 2 would prohibit the possession of cannabis in university residences. The Federation disagrees with this provision because it would prohibit adult students from possessing cannabis not only on the premises of the academic institution they attend, but where they live as well.
Finally, with respect to the research and prevention measures on the consumption of cannabis, the Federation’s members cannot express a view on the effectiveness of the prevention measures, as the legislation has only been in force since October 2018. On the other hand, in their view the amount of $25 million over five years for prevention is insufficient.
The Association québécoise des programmes pour premiers épisodes psychotiquesrecommends adopting a psycho-educational approach for young people and those close to them, and that as many persons as possible (teachers, parents, social workers, etc.) be trained on the impacts of cannabis in triggering severe and lasting psychotic disorders.
The Association also notes that young people trivialize the consumption of cannabis now that it has been legalized. In its view however, consumption must not be restricted to the extent that the spirit of the law is negated and the legal consequences of non-compliance become even more serious.
It voices the hope that young people who contravene the control measures are steered directly to clinics where they can receive the help they need.
Finally, the Association questions the soundness of offering products with a THC content of up to 25%, as the higher the THC concentration, the greater the risk of harm. It would like product labels to be more precise, given that some SQDC products indicate that their THC content is somewhere between 12% and 22%.
The Institut national de la santé publique du Québec shares the government’s concerns regarding the risks associated with consumption by young people.
It also agrees with the prevention objectives proposed in Bill 2.
Regarding the increase in the legal age to 21, the Institute recognizes the risks of early consumption for young people’s health. However, it notes that jurisdictions that have sought to prevent consumption through prohibition have not observed a decrease in high-risk usage practices.
An increase in the legal age for consumption could lead to weighty consequences for the lives of young offenders, such as penal sanctions, contact with the underworld, and consumption of uncontrolled products with a dangerously high THC content.
These are thus undesirable consequences for young people, which the legalizing legislation sought to avoid.
The Institute proposes tightening access to cannabis by limiting rather than prohibiting purchases by 18 to 21 year-olds. It suggests allowing them to possess a reduced quantity of such products.
Regarding the prohibition on consumption in public places, a large number of users who rent their dwellings are at an impasse, which is unfair compared to the situation of users who own their dwellings.
In addition, the Institute has some concerns about making cannabis appear normal and acceptable if it is allowed to be consumed in public places, but also believes that prohibiting smoking in public would lead to the consumption of edibles, which potentially involve even greater risks.
The Institute encourages the government to maintain the current restrictions on the places where smoking is permitted, as specified in the Tobacco Control Act.
The City of Gatineaurecommends maintaining the general prohibition against smoking on municipal territory, while giving municipalities the right to opt out. The right to opt out would apply only to smoking cannabis on public streets and sidewalks.
The City maintains that the prohibition has proved its ineffectiveness at curbing consumption and eliminating the black market associated with it.
Banning the smoking of cannabis on municipal territory risks producing undesirable consequences, however, such as sending the message to people to smoke cannabis inside their homes. According to the City, that would be contrary to the message that the public health department is trying to convey to users, which is to smoke outside their dwellings.
The landlords’ association indicates that 86% of its members intend to prohibit smoking both inside the apartments they own and outside (on balconies). Tenants would thus be faced with the dilemma of either contravening their leases or exposing themselves to sanctions by smoking in public spaces.
The City agrees with the government on the need to combat the perception that consuming cannabis is perfectly normal and acceptable. However, prohibiting the smoking of cannabis in public places would neither limit nor reduce its consumption, particularly by young people.
Finally, regarding the increase in the legal age to 21, the City instead favours sensitization campaigns aimed at young people, which it considers more promising than raising the legal age for consuming cannabis.