One of the most prevalent reasons why some groups and countries are against legalizing cannabis is that they think that legal marijuana would lead more of the youth to start using cannabis and even get addicted to it.
When it comes to addiction, they may have a point. Kids who start smoking cannabis at a younger age are more likely to develop an addiction to marijuana later on in life. However, they may be wrong in thinking that legal marijuana will encourage kids and teens to take up the habit.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the rate of adolescent marijuana use in Colorado is at its lowest for close to a decade since cannabis was legalized in the state. In 2015 and 2016, only around 9% of teens aged 12 to 17 years old use marijuana on a monthly basis. This is the lowest rate in Colorado since 2007 and 2008. In fact, in the United States where recreational marijuana use is legal in eight states and Washington, D.C., overall teenage marijuana use has declined, including those in states with legal marijuana laws.
Canada’s logic is more pragmatic. Only when you regulate access to marijuana and stopping criminal groups from profiting from cannabis, can you truly safeguard the youth. It also allows you to get more revenues that can be used for awareness and education programs.
So, when it comes to protecting young people while also legalizing cannabis, other countries may want to pay close attention to what Canada is doing. Everyone needs to see whether Canada’s Cannabis Act is effective in this aspect in case they need a legislative model in the future.
The Cannabis Act has several provisions that directly protect the country’s youth. What are these provisions?
- You cannot give or sell marijuana to youth.
- There will be a new offense that will cover the use of youth to commit a marijuana-related violation. These violations are related to the sale, distribution, export, production and import of cannabis.
- Making sure that the promotion, marketing and labeling of cannabis products are not attractive to the youth. There are also advertising restrictions for cannabis products that are similar to those restrictions you have for tobacco products.
- Forbidding the sale of marijuana via vending machines or self-service outlets.
- Make packaging for cannabis products child-proof, ensuring that children will not be able to accidentally open and ingest these products.
Aside from these provisions, the Canadian government will also invest $46 million in the next five years that will go to public education, awareness programs and also surveillance activities. These programs will be aimed to educate the public about the health risks of cannabis, especially to pregnant and breastfeeding women, the youth, and those who are at risk of developing mental illness. It will also make the public aware about the dangers of driving or operating machinery after using cannabis.
Eighteen is the minimum age of use
A controversial aspect of Canada’s Cannabis Act is that it allows people 18 years and older to legally use marijuana. The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation had initially recommended the minimum age of use at 25 years old.
For an act that aims to protect the youth, why didn’t the Canadian government go for the higher age limit?
This is because the Canadian government needed to strike a balance between protecting the youth and the health risks of cannabis, versus the realities that a lot of people aged 18 to 24 are already using cannabis on a regular basis.
If you set the minimum age of use higher, that might mean that those users who are aged 18 to 24 will have nowhere to turn to but the illegal cannabis market. Stamping out the illegal cannabis market is also one of the aims of the Cannabis Act.
Provinces, municipalities and territories would be able to set a higher age limit.