In the past week, Canadians in every province across the country have celebrated the historic change in law and culture. They’ve waited patiently for their dank deliveries. Then, they unwrapped layers of excessive, mandatory packaging. The old and the young—as long as they were of legal drinking age in some of the provinces, age 18—could join the bud bandwagon. But in the province of Quebec, the laws regarding legal age of cannabis consumption will soon change to 21. Though three years older than the legal drinking age, provincial leaders argue the change will serve its youth. And they base their argument on recent research claiming issues in development for adolescents that use the newly legal drug.
A Change of Tune
Finding cannabis in Canada still requires a little effort. Each province maintains their own set of rules and regulations when it comes to the Cannabis Act. Growing cannabis in one province may be okay, for instance. But in Quebec, the cultivation of home-grown bud will soon not be allowed. This law will stand despite the federal government’s decision to allow up to 4 plants of home-grown cannabis. Reasonably, many Canadians have vocalized their complaints surrounding the strictness of some of these laws. But provincial leaders continue to amend the new law legalizing cannabis to fit what they believe is best for their citizens.
For Canadians, the nationwide legal age to consume marijuana is 18. But that does not apply in every province. Like home-grown bud, Quebec looks to differ from its fellow provinces. Quebecois politicians agreed with the age of 18 initially; they now see reason to change the legal age. Formerly, Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard argued against raising the age higher than the national law. Paramount in his argument was the idea that a black market still exists for youth ages 18-21 if cannabis is not legal for that population. But now, the strategy has changed. By setting the age 2 years higher than Ontario, where it is now 19, Quebecois lawmakers hope to encourage youth development. They believe cognitive development could be at risk when young people use cannabis.
The Kids Are(n’t) Alright
Central to this decision to change the minimum age are the kids. For politicians like Quebecois Junior Health and Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant, they just want to ensure the government fulfills its responsibility to protect its citizens. And especially its young people. As a doctor, Carmant notes the risk of using the drug before age 25, stating there may be a possibility of psychiatric complications.
His opinion may have scientific support. A recent study that looked at young people using both cannabis and alcohol in Montreal. In the sample population, they observed delayed responses, slower cognition, and poor recall memory. Most concerning, they discovered that cannabis had a worse effect than alcohol did on participants. This research is the reason politicians may want to keep the legal drinking age at 18 while they raise the age for cannabis.
Still, while some research has shown negative effects on youth using cannabis, some proves the opposite. Yes, cannabis can slow response time and cognitive functions in habitual marijuana users at young ages. But these negative effects are all but eliminated if the cannabis user suspends use for 72 hours.
It Ain’t Perfect, But it Will Do
Legalized cannabis in Canada isn’t perfect. Many issues exist as a result of the recent legalization. The country has banned all edibles, for example. But each province now has a foundation to build upon when deciding the fate of cannabis in their region. Foremost in politicians’ minds sticks the resiny notion that this new law has its effect on young people’s growth. These effects can be both negative and positive. But critical to this moment for Canadian lawmakers remains keeping kids safe through proper cannabis education. Furthermore, important for all Canadians will be talking honestly about cannabis with kids. No matter what, Canada still leads the world by example in its newly launched cannabis law… whether or not it’s perfect.