News / Calgary

Legal Marijuana: Experts say regulate the high, not the legal age

The federal government has set the minimum age for cannabis consumption at 18, but provinces can choose to raise it

Jeff Mooij founded and operates the 420 Clinic in Inglewood, which helps patients navigate medical marijuana laws in Canada.

Elizabeth Cameron/For Metro

Jeff Mooij founded and operates the 420 Clinic in Inglewood, which helps patients navigate medical marijuana laws in Canada.

Don’t regulate the age, regulate the high.

That could help solve the puzzle of determining what the best age is to allow Albertans to purchase cannabis products, but not everyone agrees.

Last week, the federal government revealed the minimum age of consumption would be 18, but provinces can choose to set it higher.

According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA), cannabis with high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content can have affect mental health and cognitive outcomes people who start smoking pot earlier in life.

“Research shows that the human brain continues to develop until around the age of 25, and based on the evidence, psychiatrists are concerned that regular use of cannabis prior to that age may negatively affect the brain’s healthy maturation process,” said Dr. Renuka Prasad, president of the CPA.

The association wants the legal age to be 21 and for the government to restrict the quantity and potency of cannabis products available to people between the age of 21 and 25.

Jeff Mooij, the founder and owner of the 420 Clinic in Calgary, was blunt.

“It would be a waste of time,” Mooij said. “You’re not going to stop them – if the guy on the street says he has some really strong stuff, they’ll go get that and then it’s not clean or safe,” Mooij said. “I think we have to set the age and get over it.”

Dr. Matt Hill, a self-described brain scientist who studies cannabinoids at the University of Calgary, said he could support regulating the THC levels available to Albertans based on their age, but setting a higher minimum age would negate the purpose of legalizing cannabis.

“All of the regulatory issues that have driven the whole point of legalization – to kill the black market, create a consistent product and monitor THC levels – all of that would be lost,” Hill told Metro.

“From a public health perspective, concerns about cannabis, while real to some degree, are a drop in the ocean compared to opiates and even alcohol,” he said.

“There’s no reason for them to be downing tequila as opposed to drinking beer, if you get the analogy.”

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