Quebec raises cannabis consumption age, but will minors quit kush?

Despite the government’s intentions, raising the legal marijuana smoking age may not be as efficient as thought.

The Quebec government passed a law to raise the legal smoking age of marijuana from 18 to 21 in December 2019. Since January 2020, no one under the age of 21 is able to purchase, possess or smoke pot.

The law was introduced in Bill 2, which was sponsored by Minister of Health Lionel Carmant.

As an ex-pediatric neurologist, Carmant’s concerns for the youth-led to his introduction of this legislation. Research done by the Canadian government shows that smoking marijuana before the brain matures has consequences, as it negatively impacts the development of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex controls things like memory, learning, making decisions and judgment. In an email exchange with the Concordian, Carmant said the increased likelihood of getting stimulation psychosis, which can occur from consuming too much cannabis in minors.Carmant hopes to give a “clear message” to teens and young adults. According to him, “cannabis is a harmful substance” that should be avoided.

“We will not compromise the safety of the youth because of an illegal market,” Carmant  said.

Louie, a Montreal drug dealer who is using an alias, started selling weed as a first year university student. Due to “shitty” residence food and not having enough money to buy better food regularly, Louie began to sell weed.

While he does not know where his weed comes from, Louie is confident in the reliability and safety of black market bud. However, buyers have to be smart about it, and be wary of prices. “If you’re getting five dollars a gram or something from some sketch motherf*cker, then you’re probably getting some synthetic shit,” he said. Louie sells a gram of weed for $10, and his customers’ ages range from 17 to 30.

Contrary to Louie, social worker Lindsay Faul sees some danger in black market weed and underage weed consumption itself. She cites brain development and the quality of black market weed as concerns related to underage smokers in Montréal.

Weed can be risky for consumers; one of the risks is the uncertainty regarding the amount of THC in illegal weed. According to the Canadian Government’s website, higher amounts of THC can heighten or prolong effects of confusion or anxiety.

Quebec is now the only province that has a higher age limit to purchase cannabis than tobacco or alcohol. Faul does not agree with the decision to have varying legal purchasing age. “I believe that all three of these substances should be treated the same,” Faul said. “Either make all three legal at 18 or all three legal at 21.”

Faul continued by explaining the difference between the dangers of tobacco, weed, and alcohol. While all three have setbacks, “tobacco and cannabis are similar in the sense that they typically cause the most harm to our respiratory system,” she said. But cannabis is less dangerous when it is ingested in other forms. “Alcohol, on the other hand, negatively impacts all the systems in the body,” she added.

Both long-term drinking and heavy drinking can lead to many types of diseases, and can cause damage to organs like the heart, pancreas and liver. While tobacco and cannabis both negatively impact the respiratory system, tobacco affects much more of the body. A diagram by the Canadian Cancer Society shows that tobacco smokers have a higher chance of developing cancers in the mouth, lungs, liver, bladder, and more. Tobacco consumption, while dangerous, is also easy to avoid. The Canadian Cancer Society writes that tobacco is “the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Canada.” Secondhand smoke from tobacco is also dangerous. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, second hand smoke inhalation increases the likelihood of getting lung disease, a heart attack, and stroke. body, and nicotine––what gives users their high––is very addictive.

More research needs to be done to learn about the correlation between smoking cannabis and developing cancer. However, the Canadian Cancer Society writes that some cancer patients use medical marijuana to relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and pain.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists both alcoholic beverages and all kinds of tobacco exposure in its list of carcinogenic substances to humans.

So how will the Quebec government restrict these dangers from the youth? According to Carmant, the battle against underage tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption is one that society has been fighting for “decades.”

Carmant also said his government will focus on keeping weed out of the hands of youth. “We now have the opportunity to strengthen laws that will prevent illegal cannabis sales in five or 10 years,” he said. “We strongly believe that Quebecers must be made aware of the effects of this substance–especially young people.”


Photo by Jad Abukasm


POLI SAVVY: New Year, New Weed but the same old mentality

The new year brought new regulations surrounding cannabis consumption in Quebec.

In order to circulate the information, the government recently released an ad, in which you see two men, a younger and older one, about to smoke a joint. An off-camera voice interrupts them just as they are about to light it up, informing them that the law has changed and that you now have to be 21 to legally consume weed.

Then, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo! The joint disappeared from the youngest’s hand, who then shrugs his shoulders, candidly smiles and casually leaves. The desire to smoke just simply goes away, because “it’s against the law.”

Tell me, do you know anyone under 21, especially in a country where specific drugs are legal, who would simply agree to give up their drugs because now “it’s the law”?

What Premier François Legault seems to have missed with these new regulations targeting the younger generation is that before the legalization, kids were smoking and they will continue to do so, even if the law has been changed.

What they will do now is turn to a product that they don’t know the contents of, how it got produced and what it will help finance. It goes against the very purpose of weed legalization.

Legalization was meant to control and provide a safe product, to reduce addiction, fight off the black market, and protect our kids. Additionally, it allowed families to bring up the subject and include everyone at the table.

The ad perfectly showcases another problem in our society, which shows how we expect parents to silence the subject to simply make it go away.

Once again, Legault shows a deeply toxic boomer mentality where patronization replaces education. Our society considers people as adults at 18 years old — you can drink at 18 — but Lord helps us, one cannot touch marijuana until they are 21.

But don’t worry, the joint will magically disappear and no one will need to talk about the reasoning behind such a decision.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Poli Savvy: What’s the CAQ doing with weed and how does it impact you?

If you live under a rock or never toke up, then you might not have heard that the legal age for cannabis consumption will be raised from 18 to 21 on the first day of the new year.

The law will also ban the public consumption of cannabis. I guess that means you won’t be able to enjoy your joint on your way to the nearest munchies. This law is meant to regulate the number of young consumers and their vulnerability to the drug.

Another law that has stirred some controversy is the values test aimed at immigrants heading to the province. Premier François Legault said he thinks “it’s important if somebody wants to come and live in Quebec, to know that, for example, women are equal to men.”

Were you thinking of applying to move here permanently? Well, just make sure you have “aligned values.” But does a government that takes away the right for women to wear a hijab at their place of work believe women are equal to men?

Bill 21 has been heavily criticized for being a blatant form of discrimination, aimed mainly at women. It bans teachers, police officers and judges from wearing religious symbols at work. CBC News reported Prime Minister Trudeau saying the law is “unfair, unequal treatment [and] state-sponsored, systemic oppression.”

What does this mean for Canada? Well, it’s not as though Trudeau was rushing to fix these forms of systemic racism in the country. In fact, the CBC reported one of his priorities “is going to be on responding to [frustrations with the economic challenges], the way we’re going to be working to make life more affordable for all Canadians.” I guess he’s going to be prioritizing the oil and natural gas sector.

Also, if you were hoping your vote towards Canada’s favourite costume boy was for climate action, you have been pranked.


Graphic by Victoria Blair




Concordia master’s student studies the effects of cannabinoids on the immune system

It’s been a year since cannabis has been legalized in Canada, and the drug is being widely used across the country.

In the second quarter of 2019 alone, Statistics Canada reported that almost 5 million Canadians have reported using cannabis. Since it was only recently legalized, there hasn’t been much research on it or the effects it has on users.

“So many people are using it, so how do we not know exactly what it’s doing to our bodies?” Concordia Psychology MA student, Norhan Mehrez asked. She said it was shocking to her that we still don’t fully understand the mechanism behind some of its effects.

Due to this lag in research, Mehrez said she took it upon herself to study the effects of cannabinoids on people, with a focus on the immune system.

Mehrez’s research is an intersection of three fields: the immune system, circadian rhythms and cannabinoids (THC, CDB and synthetic cannabinoids).

With the help of co-supervisors Shimon Amir, from the department of psychology, and Peter Darlington, an associate professor in the Department of Health, Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, Mehrez aims to understand how cannabinoids affect timekeeping in the immune system.

“We know it affects the immune system in several ways, we know that it may affect timekeeping in different tissues in the body,” said Mehrez. “I’m expecting that [cannabinoids] play some sort of role in maintaining an optimal balance in immune function. We know that cannabinoids affect the immune system, but the actual mechanisms of how it’s having those effects isn’t fully understood.”

The link between circadian rhythms and immune system

Circadian rhythms are the 24-hour cycles in the body that regulate different organs and functions. An example of this is the sleep-wake cycle, which repeats every 24 hours. Mehrez explained we have circadian rhythms in a lot of functions of the body, including the immune system. We also have genes, called clock genes, that ensure the regulation of the circadian rhythm of certain functions, depending on the body’s perceived time of day. The clock genes “keep time” by rhythmically activating along a 24-hour cycle, which in turn leads to rhythms in many bodily processes.

Mehrez explained your immune system seems to function optimally at certain times of the day, where your immune response to fight a pathogen is the strongest, and where you may be more likely to heal from a wound. This is where the immune system and circadian rhythms are tightly linked.

Mehrez said when a person’s sleep-wake cycle is disrupted by working the night shift for example, this also affects other circadian rhythms in the body. Those workers are more likely to develop disorders of the immune system because their time keeping is thrown off.

“On the other hand, if you compromise the immune system in animals or in people, we see that some of their circadian rhythms get disrupted as well,” Mehrez continued.

The link between circadian rhythms and the immune system has been recently investigated, though research is still being done. Mehrez said she wants to learn how cannabinoids affect the immune system as it keeps time.


Mehrez got funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for her research. She said they recruit healthy participants and screen them to have normal sleep cycles by using different questionnaires. They also have questionnaires to understand their drug habits. The participants’ blood is taken from them once screened and Mehrez then isolates the T cells, a subtype of white blood cells that detects the presence of a foreign invader in the body and creates an immune response to attack it.

Mehrez adds different cannabinoids to the isolated T cells, such as THC, CBD and synthetic cannabinoids, activates the T cells to stimulate an immune response and measures the reaction of the cells every four hours, for 36 hours.

They also look at the expression of the clock genes, which continue to show rhythms for some time even after being removed from the body. Once the researchers activate the T cells and add cannabinoids, they will see whether the cannabinoids affect clock genes and rhythmicity in the T cells.

“Are the cannabinoids going to help cells go back to normal time keeping or are they going to make time keeping worse? We don’t know,” said Mehrez.

Mehrez said, through her research, her team is hoping to uncover whether cannabinoids will help maintain normal time keeping under conditions known to disrupt it or if it will they cause further disruption.

There is a system in the body that has receptors for cannabinoids, generally involved in maintaining balance. For example, maintaining a body temperature of 37º C.

Mehrez said that from past research her team knows that cannabinoids also lowers immune system activity, which could be bad for someone who’s trying to fight off an infection or a cold, because we become more prone to viruses when our immune system is lowered or suppressed. “But it can be a good thing for people who have autoimmune illnesses, because their problem is that their immune system is attacking their own body. Cannabinoids are being shown to be useful in autoimmune illnesses because they are immunosuppressants and because they don’t have many known negative side effects. So, it seems to be very promising as a potential treatment so far.”

“I’m hoping that understanding how [cannabinoids] affects timekeeping [could] give us insight on how it affects the immune system,” said Mehrez.

Mehrez said that understanding how cannabinoids affect T cells will bring her closer to understanding how they affect overall immune function in healthy people. She added she hopes this research can be followed up to understand how cannabinoids might play a role in autoimmune illnesses.


Photo by Mackenzie Lad


World in Brief

The Amazon forest has been burning for the past four weeks at an alarming speed. In July only, areas of the forest were being cleared at a rate of five football fields a minute according to The Guardian. While there is only a portion of the forest on fire, experts estimate that 2019 might be the most destructive year for the Amazon in 10 years.

Tension rises as two drones crashed in Beirut’s southern suburb on Sunday, according to Reuters. While Israel has not claimed responsibility for the drone strikes, Lebanese president Michel Aoun claims the attack as “a declaration of war.” The Hezbollah also warned Israeli soldiers at the border to await a response.

President Donald Trump proposed nuking hurricanes before they made landfall in an attempt to neutralize the storms. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest the results would be “devastating,” according to the BBC. “Radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas,” said the NOAA. Trump denied making this proposition in a Tweet.

Chemists will be gathering in San Diego this week to present latest research on chocolate and cannabis. According to new research, chocolate’s properties can throw off potency tests, leading to inaccurate labeling in states where marijuana is legal, according to the Associated Press. Chocolate edibles may contain a way bigger dose of THC than their label, sometimes sending consumers into unexpected trips.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Four Montreal students take first place at HackHarvard

Four Montreal students take first place at HackHarvard

“HackHarvard was maybe my 10th hackathon,” said Nicolas MacBeth, a first-year software engineering student at Concordia. He and his friend Alex Shevchenko, also a first-year software engineering student, have decided to make a name for themselves and frequent as many hackathon competitions as they can. The pair have already participated in many hackathons over the last year, both together and separately. “I just went to one last weekend [called] BlocHacks, and I was a finalist at that,” said MacBeth.

Most notable of the pair’s achievements, along with their other teammates Jay Abi-Saad and Ajay Patal, two students from McGill, is their team’s first place ranking as ‘overall best’ in the HackHarvard Global 2018 competition on Oct. 19. According to MacBeth, while all hackathons are international competitions, “HackHarvard was probably the one that had the most people from different places than the United States.” The competition is sponsored by some of the largest transnational conglomerates in the tech industry. For example, Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, a multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce, retail, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, as well as Zhejiang Lab, a Zhejiang provincial government sponsored institute whose research focuses on big data and cloud computing.

MacBeth said he and Shevchenko sifted through events on the ‘North American Hackathons’ section of the Major League Hacking (MLH) website, the official student hacking league that supports over 200 competitions around the world, according to their website. “We’ve gone to a couple hackathons, me and Alex together,” said MacBeth. “And we told ourselves ‘Why not? Let’s apply. [HackHarvard] is one of the biggest hackathons.’ […] So we applied for all the ones in the US. We both got into HackHarvard, and so we went.”

Essentially, MacBeth, Shevchenko, Abi-Saad, and Patal spent 36 hours conceptualizing, designing, and coding their program called sober.AI. The web application uses AI in tandem with visual data input to “increase accuracy and accessibility, and to reduce bias and cost of a normal field sobriety test,” according to the program’s description on Devpost. “I read a statistic somewhere that only a certain amount of police officers have been trained to be able to detect people [under the influence],” said MacBeth. “Drunk, they can test because they have [breathalyzers], but high, it’s kind of hard for people to test.”

MacBeth explained that the user-friendly web application could be helpful in a range of situations, from trying to convince an inebriated friend not to drive under the influence, to law enforcement officials conducting roadside testing in a way that reduces bias, to employees, who may have to prove sobriety for work, to do so non-invasively.

Sober.AI estimates the overall percentage of sobriety through a series of tests that are relayed via visual data—either a photo of an individual’s’ face or a video of the individual performing a task—that is inputted into two neural networks designed by the team of students.

“We wanted to recreate a field sobriety test in a way that would be as accurate as how police officers do it,” said MacBeth.

The first stage is an eye exam, where a picture of an individual is fed to the first neural network, which gives an estimation of sobriety based on the droopiness of the eye, any glassy haze, redness, and whether the pupils are dilated. The second stage is a dexterity test where individuals have to touch their finger to their nose, and the third is a balance test where people have to stand on one leg. “At the end, we compile the results and [sober.AI] gives a percentage of how inebriated we think the person is,” said MacBeth.

“Basically, what you want to do with AI is recreate how a human would think,” explained MacBeth. AI programs become increasingly more accurate and efficient as more referential data is inputted into the neural networks. “The hardest part was probably finding data,” explained MacBeth. “Because writing on the internet ‘pictures of people high’ or ‘red eyes’ and stuff like that is kind of a pain.” MacBeth said that he took to his social media pages to crowdsource photos of his friends and acquaintances who were high, which provided some more data. However, MacBeth said his team made a name for themselves at the hackathon when they started going from group to group, asking their competitors to stand on one leg, as if they were sober, then again after spinning around in a circle ten times. “That was how we made our data,” said MacBeth. “It was long and hard.”

Participating in such a prestigious competition and having sober.AI win ‘overall best’ left MacBeth and Shevchenko thirsty for more. “HackHarvard had a lot more weight to it. We were on the international level, and just having the chance of being accepted into HackHarvard within the six or seven hundred students in all of North America that were accepted, I felt like we actually needed to give it our all and try to win—to represent Concordia, to represent Montreal.”

MacBeth and Shevchenko have gone their separate ways in terms of competitions for the time being, however the pair’s collaborations are far from over. Both are planning to compete separately in ConUHacks IV at the end of January 2019, where MacBeth explained that they will team up with other software engineering students who have yet to compete in hackathons. “We’re gonna try to groom other people into becoming very good teammates,” said MacBeth.

The first-year software engineer concluded with some advice for fellow Concordia students. “For those in software engineering and even computer science: just go to hackathons,” advised MacBeth. “Even if you’re skilled, not skilled, want to learn, anything, you’re going to learn in those 24 hours, because you’re either gonna be with someone who knows, or you’re gonna learn on your own. Those are the skills you will use in the real world to bring any project to life.”

Feature photo courtesy of Nicolas Macbeth


Colour commentary: How cannabis affects athletes

Newly legalized product still banned on anti-doping list

Cannabis became legal in Canada on Oct. 17, but is still a banned product on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) prohibited substances list. Any cannabis, with the exception of cannabidiol (CBD), is not allowed.

According to WADA’s rules, an athlete can have a maximum of 150 nanograms per millilitre of urine in their system when tested, raised from 15 ng/mL in 2013. However, this is much higher than the legal driving limit in Canada, which is 0.5 ng/mL of blood.

Even though WADA’s threshold for cannabis is so high, there is still debate on whether it should even be there in the first place. Olympic champion Ross Rebagliati believes it should be taken off WADA’s list. “If athletes are allowed to consume alcohol and tobacco let them have weed,” he told Reuters. “It is the only thing that is good for you of those three things.”

Rebagliati has an interesting past with cannabis. After winning the giant slalom in snowboarding at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Rebagliati was stripped of his gold medal for having THC in his blood. He was later given back the medal because cannabis was not banned by WADA at the time.

However, WADA states that, for a substance to be performance-enhancing, it must have the “potential to enhance performance, create a health risk for the athlete, and/or violate the spirit of the sport.” Studies have shown cannabis can ease pain and reduce anxiety.

Another study in the British Journal of Medicine stated that cannabis can impair motor skills, which can slow down reaction time, and be dangerous for faster sports. “Cannabis is effective only in allowing an athlete to relax and to escape from social pressures,” the authors concluded. They suggested that sports leagues should ensure their athletes are consuming cannabis responsibly, if at all.

Another use for cannabis in sports is to reduce pain, particularly in a physically-demanding sport like hockey. Many NHL enforcers have been known to use painkillers. Former New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild forward Derek Boogaard died in 2011 of an oxycodone and alcohol overdose.

Another former fighter, Riley Cote, told Global News that cannabis should be a legal substance, as it eases pain. “What do you self-medicate with? Opioids, muscle relaxants, mix ’em all together,” he said. “No wonder there’s so many depression issues and mental health and anxiety.”

Cannabis in sports is a subject that will be debated for a long time. But on a personal note, I’ve played hockey with players who have smoked before a game, and let me say, their performance was definitely not any better.

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