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Cannabis: Raise the legal age to 21

As promised during the election campaign, the CAQ has tabled a bill to raise the legal age for cannabis consumption. “I want to send a very clear message to young people: Using cannabis is dangerous and can cause serious problems such as schizophrenia,” stated Premier François Legault. If he could have done so, the Junior Minister of Health and Social Services, Lionel Carmant, would have increased the minimum age from 18 to 25. By setting it at 21, he says he made a “compromise between science and social acceptability.” 

Bill 2 has received the support of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ), the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec (AMPQ), and the Association des médecins d’urgence du Québec (AMUQ). Conversely, while the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ) and the Association des spécialistes en médecine préventive du Québec do not consider cannabis to be harmless, they stressed that “raising the legal age for purchasing and possessing cannabis runs counter to the conclusions of the consultations held throughout Québec, and to those of the Forum of Experts, who were 60-67% in favour of a legal age in line with that for alcohol and tobacco.”

Public health studies “clearly” show that it’s best to delay the first use of cannabis for as long as possible; of course, this means guarding against the risk of trivialization, but prevention science also shows that there are better strategies than repression to delay the onset of cannabis use. 

The AMPQ acknowledges that there are two schools of thought, each with its own opinion on the subject. The association recognizes that young people who already use cannabis will continue to do so regardless of the legal age. “However, other people believe this barrier will delay the onset of cannabis use and that it will protect young people, who psychiatrists and emergency physicians see all too often in their EDs in a state of psychosis,” stressed Dr. Karine J. Igartua, president of the AMPQ.

For its part, the FMSQ ensures that each speciality approaches the subject from a very specific angle, but 71.8% of its members disagree with a legal age of 18, while more than 80% are in favour of the age being set at 21 or 25 for health reasons.

On Twitter, several physicians got into a heated debate as to whether increasing the age to 21 has any impact on the clinical and social effects of cannabis consumption.


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