This week, the federal government’s tabled Bill C-45 would allow adults to legally possess and use small amounts of recreational marijuana. The bill would make it a criminal offence to sell pot to minors but it would not be crime for youth to possess small amounts of it.
The introduction of the Bill was met with a strongly worded editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal:
“Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly.”
The CMAJ references the Position Statement of the Canadian Pediatric Society. Scientific evidence strongly links marijuana use in youth to:
1. cannabis dependence and other substance use disorders
2. the initiation and maintenance of tobacco smoking
3. an increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis
4. impaired neurological development and cognitive decline
5. diminished school performance and lifetime achievement
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that the minimum age to buy and use marijuana be set at 21 instead of 18 years. Furthermore, the CMA stresses that restrictions be imposed on the quantity and potency of marijuana that young people can purchase and use until the age of 25.
Dr. Brian Goldman, in his blog “White Coat, Black Art” writes, “I agree that high potency marijuana use in young people is risky. But I don’t think that legislation is the solution. Canada has one of the highest rates in the world of young people using marijuana. As many as 60 per cent of 18 year olds have tried it at least once. The absence of legislation hasn’t made it that difficult for youth to obtain it. Researchers doubt that bill C-45 or any law for that matter will curb the use of cannabis by young people. Colorado has had legal marijuana for some time now, and that state has seen no increase or decrease in young people using the drug.”
He correctly concludes, “The federal government should stop suggesting that the law is intended to prevent kids from using marijuana, since that kind of message is likely to make the drug more attractive to teens.”
As debate Bill C-45 is debated and inches towards legislation, let’s make sure that we put our children’s health first.