If Canada were to legalize marijuana, sales should be limited to adults over the age of 25, Ottawa’s public health agency officials say.
Age restrictions are one of 33 recommendations Ottawa Public Health officials submitted to a Canadian task force on cannabis legalization, CBC News reported this week.
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The minimum age was one of the “most discussed issues” by the more than two-dozen Canadian health agencies working on the issue, Gillian Connelly, Ottawa Public Health’s manager of health promotion and disease prevention, told CBC News:
“We wanted to ensure that we’re reducing access for youth,” explained Connelly.
“One of the things that the research clearly demonstrates is that early access to cannabis can have detrimental affects for brain development and the brain develops up to age 25.”
OPH also suggests the minimum should be Canada-wide and “must be coupled with rigorous enforcement and penalties for violations in order to be effective.”
Marijuana advocates and industry members countered that the minimum age to purchase legal cannabis should align with the country’s drinking age of 19 years old, according to CBC.
The Canadian Medical Association, along with substance abuse experts, also have called for a minimum age of 25.
But Canada’s doctors association said such a restriction likely would be unrealistic, according to the Toronto Star:
Dr. Jeff Blackmer, who headed the CMA’s policy formulation group, said in an interview that the experience of other jurisdictions that have already loosened pot laws and “the reality in terms of the implementation of this type of regime” led the doctors to settle on 21 years of age as the minimum.
“It’s trying to find that balance between what the scientific evidence says and what is sort of the art of the possible,” he said.
Even now, as marijuana use remains illegal, its use among youth aged 15 to 24 is double that of the general population, the CMA says.
Under a legalized system, those aged 25 and older are likely to share with their underage friends and so the physicians’ group is calling for regulations that would mandate lower maximum purchase levels and lower THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient) levels in product sold to those under 25.
Discussions on age minimums are one of many issues debated as Canada inches toward legalization. The National Post recently released a six-part series, “O Cannabis,” on the multi-faceted topic.