Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines: What age is appropriate?

Several health groups, such as the Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH),  have presented the Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines. 

The Guidelines can be found here.  Most recently, the Quebec government is reported to be considering setting the age limit at 18. Ontario on the other hand Ontario plans to set theirs at 19 in line with the provincial drinking age.

Some health officials and safety advocacy groups say they are concerned about the proposed legislation and the impact it could have on health. The Guidelines state:

“Studies show that initiating cannabis at a young age—primarily
before age 16—increases the risks for a variety of adverse health
outcomes. For example, users who start young are more likely
to develop related mental health and education problems,
or to experience injuries or other substance use problems.
A contributing factor may be the impact of cannabis use on
brain development, which is not completed until the mid-20s.
The younger a person is when starting cannabis use, the greater
the likelihood of developing health problems that are also
more severe. Therefore, deferring cannabis use at least until after
adolescence is advised”

In its Question and Answer session, the Federal Government decided that it would accept the advice of the Task Force, in the suggested legal age of 18, that,in “determining the minimum age for consumption of legal cannabis, the Government of Canada should strike a balance between the known health risks of cannabis and the reality that Canadian youth and young adults use cannabis at rates that are among the highest in the world. To address this, the legislation restricts access to cannabis solely to adults. If desired, provinces and territories will be able to set access at a higher age as they deem appropriate for regulating adult consumption. A broad public education campaign will ensure that adults can make informed decisions about their use.”

It remains to be seen whether medical science will have any impact on the proposed age limits that will be set by the provinces.

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