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


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


Debate: is it time to legalize it?

Image via Flickr

Student representatives from the Conservatives, New Democratic Party, Liberals and Green Party debated the hot topic of legalization of marijuana in Canada at a Concordia-hosted event last Thursday evening.

Organized by the Student Association for Voter Empowerment Concordia and the Political Science Student Association, the hour-long debate covered such topics as the current status of marijuana in Canada, each party’s agenda on the drug and the intricacies associated with its legalization and decriminalization.

“Most of us, as students, are exposed to [marijuana] on a regular basis and we think about it quite a lot,” began Erik Scanlon of Conservative Concordia. “It is a criminal offense to use or sell marijuana and it should stay that way.”

Scanlon explained that cannabis should remain legal solely for medical reasons and maintained that recreational use should be punishable by law.

“I’m going to start with a quote from Jack Layton, who said he never exhaled,” said Alex Ederer of the NDP. “That is a metaphor, ladies and gentlemen, for the NDP’s position on marijuana.” Ederer reiterated his party’s belief that no one should go to jail for marijuana-related offences and advocated its decriminalization.

Josh Arless of the Liberal Party stated that his organization would legalize the drug but enforce legislations.

“The Liberal Party of Canada will legalize marijuana and ensure the regulation, taxation of its production, distribution and use,” said Arless. “While enacting strict penalties for illegal trafficking, illegal importation, deportation and impaired driving.”

“We believe in ending the war on drugs,” said David Fostokjian of the Green Party. “If we legalize marijuana and restrict it, it will be hard to lay your hands on it because it will be sold in legitimate organizations through distribution networks.”

Fostokjian also noted his party would like to follow in the footsteps of Portugal and Holland in terms of the drug’s decriminalization, as local consumption in both these countries has decreased ever since.

Each party was confident in their stance on the issue and were well prepared with facts, suggestions and rebuttals whenever the opportunity came about.

Attendees had been asked to write down questions they had for the party members prior to the debate as the second half would be dedicated to the audience’s queries. The atmosphere in the ninth-floor auditorium was tense as back-and-forth conversations began between opponents. Moderator Nick Cuillerier had to remind representatives to keep the sarcasm to a minimum and focus on answering the questions at hand rather than taking jabs at the other parties.

SAVEC President and former editor at The Concordian, Paola Rivas, mentioned this was the first of many events to be organized in the hopes of “demystifying the political process, encouraging people to get informed and encouraging informed voters.”

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