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PQ on pot: Legal age should be 18, SAQ should offer marijuana warnings

QUEBEC — Adding its two cents to the raging debate, the Parti Québécois has opted for a strict, state-controlled marijuana distribution system, but would set the legal age to buy it at 18.

The PQ also wants to see some controls on home crops, saying an individual would be limited to two plants not four as the federal government has proposed. And the owner of a building would have the option of banning their tenants from growing and consuming it.

When it comes to where people can smoke weed, Quebec would apply the same rules as it has in place for vaping and smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol.

Taking a somewhat softer line on the issue than the Coalition Avenir Québec party, which wants the legal age to be 21, PQ leader Jean-François Lisée argued it’s almost impossible to find the right age because youth are going to smoke regardless.

Setting the age at 21 creates a catchy political slogan, Lisée said, but it just means youth under 21 will get their weed underground — which leaves no chance to warn them about the risks for young brains described by experts.

“The Hells Angels are not too interested in public health,” Lisée said at a news conference called to present the PQ’s pot plan.

“I would rather they buy from a counsellor at the SAQ who will tell them, ‘OK, you bought this. You know it’s dangerous for your brain and you should consume less. But you have the right.'”

In fact, the PQ says sales and distribution would be controlled by the SAQ through a new branch of operations, which would report to Quebec’s minister of public health. Alcohol would not be sold in these outlets.

In the PQ’s vision, the workers would be counsellors, not salespeople.

The PQ wants all the mass-produced marijuana to be grown in the province. As for the price, the PQ says Quebec should make use of expertise at Loto-Québec, because it has a vast experience setting the price of things Quebecers collectively want to limit.

All of the profits from sales would be steered into public education and prevention. So would the goods and services tax Ottawa will collect on the sales. A PQ government would ask Ottawa to give that money back to the province.

The PQ position paper follows that of the CAQ a week earlier. The CAQ’s view is stricter. Besides the 21 age limit, the party would also ban home production in any form and all on-line sales. The PQ would allow on-line sales, but the website would be controlled by SAQ.

The Quebec government is still debating and preparing its own plan to respond to the federal legalization of marijuana, which kicks in July 1. Ontario has set the legal age at 19. 

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette last week blasted the federal government for not having worked out more of the details of its plan, including regulations covering such edible products as pot muffins and brownies.

Statistics show about half of all Canadians have tried marijuana in their lifetime.

pauthier@postmedia.com

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http://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/pq-on-pot-legal-age-should-be-18-saq-should-offer-marijuana-warnings