Canadian psychiatrists call for minimum age of 21 to buy marijuana

Photo from CP.

Marijuana legalization has been a topic of conversation for some time in Canada, but as it inches closer to becoming a reality, one group is voicing their concerns.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) says cannabis legalization could be putting the mental health of young Canadians in jeopardy if strict age requirements are not put in place and adhered to.

The group is urging the federal Liberal government to place a ban on marijuana sales to anyone under the age of 21. They also want to implement a limit on the potency of products available to people under 25.

In a new bill unveiled Thursday by the Liberals, the proposed legal age to buy recreational marijuana would be set at 18, but it could be set higher by provinces or territories.

The CPA argues that during these years of young adulthood, while one might look and feel like an adult, the human brain is still in a crucial stage of development. Inhaling marijuana or using products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), such as edibles or tinctures, can potentially interfere with that development.

“Regular cannabis use in youth and young adults can affect aspects of cognition, including attention, memory, processing speed, visuospatial functioning and overall intelligence. Worse performance is related to earlier adolescent onset of use,” the CPA wrote in a position paper. “Abstinence following regular use may improve some, but not all, of these cognitive domains.”

The CPA statement also presented data revealing 22% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 19 have smoked marijuana. Of those 22%, a fifth of them reportedly smoke the drug daily.

“Significant support is needed for public health education and resources targeting youth and young adults,” the CPA said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Medical Association has said the age requirement to buy marijuana should ideally be set at 25 years old, but acknowledged that proposal is probably unrealistic. They concur with the CPA that 21 is a safe minimum age for legal marijuana consumption with restrictions on potency until the age of 25.

“We know the science is clear,” Conservative MP Colin Carrie told CTV News. “For kids up to age 25, the brain is still developing.”