Quebec cannabis consumption age will stay 18 into autumn

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Young tokers in Quebec will get to go on toking — at least for the summer months.

In the frenzy over the adoption of Bill 9 reforming the immigration system and Bill 21 on secularism during the last week the National Assembly sat, a number of key government bills were not adopted.

Among them is Bill 2, the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s bill acting on its election promise to increase the legal age to consume cannabis in Quebec from 18 to 21.

Government officials confirmed that since the bill was not adopted before the summer recess — the process will resume in August — the existing law applies, which means young cannabis consumers between the ages of 18 and 20 have again dodged the age increase for a while longer.

That does not mean the person responsible for the bill, junior health minister Lionel Carmant, is happy about the situation.

In a statement from his office, Carmant said he has already denounced what he says is the lack of cooperation on the part of the Liberal opposition in the adoption process as the reason the bill was not adopted.

After 70 hours of work by the committee examining the bill on a clause-by-clause basis, only seven of the clauses have been adopted, Carmant said.

The government showed its good faith in adopting several compromise amendments to improve the bill.”

“The government showed its good faith in adopting several compromise amendments to improve the bill, including allowing municipalities the option of picking a park area where people are allowed to smoke cannabis,” the statement said.

The government also agreed to allow university students to possess cannabis while on campuses.

But the Liberals say things moved slowly because they discovered a number of holes in the bill during the adoption process and the government had no answers.

The bill did not die when the house recessed June 14 as such. The committee will resume work on it in the fall. But since the full legislature does not resume sitting until Sept. 17, there is no way for the cannabis bill to become law before then.

Nevertheless, by the time the house recessed, the government was boasting it had managed to table a total of 30 bills in its first full session in the driver’s seat since the October 2018 election.

Of the total, 14 were adopted in the normal way and two more (Bill 9 and Bill 21) were added during the marathon weekend of closure June 15-16.

Among the key bills adopted was Bill 1, which ensures the heads of Quebec’s anti-corruption unit (UPAC) and the Sûreté du Québec are named by a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly.

Bill 3, creating a flat school board tax for the province, also sailed into law as did Bill 12, creating a framework for additional school fees, and Bill 6, enacting the Charbonneau commission recommendation that the prescriptive period for corruption charges be extended.

For Quebec City, Bill 26 was adopted. It creates the legal framework for the city to create its new $3-billion tramway project.

But if the number of bills left on the drawing board in June is an indicator, MNAs will have their work cut out for them in the fall.

At the top of the list was Bill 17, modernizing the taxi and ride-share business. Bill 25, amending the Firearms Registration Act, and Bill 32, making the justice system more efficient, were also not adopted.

And the politically hot Bill 34, by which Hydro-Québec will return $1.5 billion in overcharges to clients in the form of a five-year increase cap, also has yet to be passed.

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