What is the Correct Legal Age for Marijuana?
Experts believe that marijuana use at an early age has a negative impact on the adolescent brain. It significantly increases addiction risk. It also increases the risk of developing neurocognitive problems. Cannabis alters the structures of the immature brain, resulting in aberrations. These aberrations negatively affect the youth’s behavioral and emotional growth. It also causes life-long cognitive problems. With these concerns in mind, Ottawa Public Health submitted recommendations that 25 years should be the legal age for marijuana use.
The Developing Brain
You become of legal age when you turn 18 years old. However, this doesn’t mean that your brain has fully matured. In fact, studies revealed that brain development continues well beyond the teenage years.
Before puberty, the brain goes through a second surge of growth in neurons. Following this surge, a “rewiring process” happens. This typically happens at the onset of puberty and lasts until you’re about 24 years old.
Using cannabis before the brain fully matures causes adverse changes with lifelong consequences.
Limiting Youth Access to Cannabis Use
With the known negative effects of marijuana on a developing brain and the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada, the public health agency of Ottawa seeks to reduce youth access to the plant by setting the legal age for marijuana at 25. The agency also suggests that this should be imposed country-wide. Strict law enforcement must be employed, and penalties should be given to those who violated the law.
The suggested legal age for marijuana is only one of their 33 recommendations. Ottawa Public Health’s submission also included recommendations on reducing risks and minimizing the harm that comes with cannabis legalization. It also included recommendations on producing and distributing cannabis safely. Public safety and patient access to medical cannabis were also included.
Disagreements on Setting the Legal Age for Marijuana Use
Their recommendation to set the legal age for marijuana at 25 years may be in line with the Canadian Medical Association’s recommendation. But not all health agencies agree. Cannabis advocates and members of the cannabis industry also disagree.
They believe that setting different legal ages for drinking and cannabis is simply unrealistic and impractical. The minimum age to buy cannabis, they said, should be aligned with the legal drinking age, which is set at 19 years old.
Enforcing such a restriction will also be difficult. Cannabis use among adolescents and young adults has doubled in the recent years. And this was before cannabis became legal in the country. With an age restriction like this, what’s stopping those above 25 years of age from sharing with their underage friends?
The cannabis industry also says that setting a high legal age for marijuana could cause more problems. If people can’t go to legal cannabis suppliers, they’ll go elsewhere. This restriction will only allow the black market to flourish.
But Ottawa’s public health agency maintains that their recommendation on the legal age for marijuana is based on scientific facts. For now though, most provinces have 19 as their legal age, except for Quebec which is 18.