Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Saturday morning the incoming Quebec government’s plan to raise the legal age for smoking cannabis to 21 could leave an opening for organized crime.
Speaking to reporters on the last day of a trip to Armenia, Trudeau said increasing the legal age could undermine one of the federal law’s key aims — eliminating the black market.
“If we eliminate the segment of the population between 18 to 19 and 21 years, which is a population often in university, often in areas where they’ll try to consume, we’re keeping an important segment of potential consumers for the black market,” he told reporters in Yerevan.
Trudeau said he hopes to discuss the matter further with Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault, whose party was elected Oct. 1.
The federal law sets the minimum age at 18 but leaves it open to provinces and territories to establish their own rules.
In all provinces and territories, the legal age will be 18 or 19 when cannabis becomes legal next Wednesday.
But Legault has promised to raise the age to 21 from 18 in Quebec. Trudeau said he personally agrees with a legal age of 18.
The prime minister said he understands that some people would like to prevent those under 25 from consuming marijuana due to the substance’s impact on brain development, but that doing so would “maintain a black market.”
“We believe that setting the legal age to (match) the age of alcohol consumption is a compromise that makes sense,” he said.
Despite their differences, Trudeau appeared reluctant to begin a quarrel with the newly elected Quebec premier.
“The government of the (Coalition Avenir Quebec) hasn’t even established its cabinet yet, so (there are) a lot of decisions to make,” he said.
“We’ll share our perspective … and we’ll have the necessary conversations at the right time and place.”
While Legault has promised to raise the legal age to 21, those changes won’t be in place when cannabis becomes legal on Wednesday.
Therefore, Quebecers between the ages of 18 and 20 will be able to legally consume cannabis for at least the first few weeks.
The party has said it intends to begin the process of modifying the law once the legislature session begins.
Melanie Marquis, The Canadian Press