Pubdate: Tue, 28 Nov 2017
Source: McGill Tribune (CN QU Edu)
Copyright: 2017 The McGill Tribune
Author: Hannibal DePencier


Quebec's proposed legislation regarding the regulation of
marijuana-set to be legalized federally on July 1, 2018-will likely be
the harshest in the country, amassing much criticism since it was
tabled on Nov. 16. On one side, the Quebec Liberal Party has come
under attack from news sites, such as Vice, and marijuana activists
for being too strict; on the other, opposing parties, like the
Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ), have called Bill 157 too permissive.
Yet, as they stand, Quebec's proposed weed laws strike an advantageous
balance between mitigating the potentially dangerous aftershocks of
marijuana legalization-like a spike in youth consumption and DUIs-and
being liberal enough to accommodate for responsible consumers and
decrease the incentive for the retention of a significant black
market. Bill 157 is strict, but not without reason.

The key specifics of the bill include a legal age of 18, zero
tolerance for driving under the influence, no unregulated growing, a
possession limit of 150 grams per person, and no privatization. In a
province where only 46 per cent of the population supports marijuana
legalization-compared to 54 per cent nationally-it's not surprising
that the specifics of weed's transition into the legal market are

One of the major issues raised by the CAQ is the proposed legal age.
The evidence of weed's detrimental effects on the growing brain's
mental health, neurocognitive performance, and neurological structure
are well documented; therefore, the CAQ has advocated for raising the
minimum legal age to 21. Yet, given the disproportionate percentage of
marijuana users between the ages of 18-22, making the legal age 21
would only encourage black market distribution-and all of the
potential health and crime issues that surround it. These include the
addition of potentially dangerous adulterants to weed, and violent
distribution rivalries. The Quebec Liberal Party's proposed
legislation concedes that young people will inevitably smoke,
regardless of legality. By not making the legal age too high, it
improves the government's ability to ensure health standards for young

Unlike Alberta, Quebec has rejected the privatization of the marijuana
dispensary industry, instead opting for full government control. The
weed-friendly side of the debate has deemed this measure draconian.
Jodi Emery, marijuana activist and co-owner of Cannabis Culture
Magazine, is quoted in the National Post as saying that Bill 157
"sounds like prohibition" and "denies Quebec residences many of their
different rights and freedoms." Yet, citizens benefit because the
Quebec government will retain its power over the sale of marijuana,
and therefore be able to more successfully limit underage consumption
and regulate safety standards, such as THC and CBD content levels, the
main psychoactive ingredients in cannabis.

Also to its credit, Quebec has categorically banned unregulated
marijuana growth for personal use, and has set the legal possession
limit at 150 grams, but these stipulations have incensed both those
who believe the bill is too strict and those who argue it's too
permissive. Marijuana activists say that this will cause unnecessary
criminalization, while CAQ justice critic Simon Jolin Barrette says
the 150-gram limit is too high. Ultimately, legalizing weed-and
normalizing its consumption-will almost certainly cause an increase in
its use among people younger than 18. If people are allowed to grow
their own weed or possess large amounts, then it would likely fuel
that market.

Regarding driving under the influence, the province has declared that
there will be zero tolerance. While this may seem unnecessarily
punitive given that there is a legal limit for drinking and driving
above zero, marijuana affects people differently, making it difficult
to determine a standard legal limit. Therefore, severe DUI laws are
critical for limiting the threat of increased weed-related collisions.

Despite the vehement opposition it has faced, Quebec's proposed
legislation for the regulation of legal weed is thoroughly socially
responsible. Bill 157 mitigates the risk of a persistent and
significant black market, does nothing to impede reasonable
consumption, and gives the provincial government the most possible
power to ensure public health and safety. While the laws are
undeniably strict, they are necessary to limit the negative effects of
a likely explosion in marijuana consumption. While more lenient laws
may be appropriate in the future, as people acclimatize to the
availability of marijuana, Quebec-and Canada as a whole-is not yet
culturally prepared for more liberal weed regulations.
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