Pubdate: Fri, 09 Sep 2016
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2016 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kelly Grant
Page: A1


Marijuana should not be sold to Canadians under the age of 21 because
their brains are still maturing, Canada's doctors say.

The Canadian Medical Association is urging the federal government to
take a slew of measures to keep legal pot out of the hands of
teenagers and young twenty-somethings, including restricting the
amount and potency of the marijuana available to Canadians younger
than 25.

The CMA, which speaks for 83,000 doctors across the country, made the
recommendations in a written submission to the federal task force in
charge of designing a new system for selling recreational pot in
Canada. The nine-member panel is expected to report to the Liberal
government - which has promised to legalize marijuana - in November.

"If you were going just by the scientific evidence you'd probably land
on something more like an age restriction at 25 because we know that
most of the rapid brain development takes place right up until that
age," said Dr. Jeff Blackmer, the CMA's vice-president of medical
professionalism and policy development.

But the doctors group acknowledged that it would be difficult to set a
minimum age of 25, considering pot use among Canadians 15 to 24 years
old is already double that of the general population. It would be
better to set a lower age limit and encourage younger marijuana users
to steer clear of the black market, it argued.

"We recognize that people below the age of 25 will still likely want
to try to use it and may then look to other avenues to obtain the
drug, which may not be as safe," Dr. Blackmer added in an interview.

Jenna Valleriani, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and a
strategic adviser for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said
it would make more sense to implement cannabis age restrictions that
mirror those for alcohol - 18 or 19, depending on the province. "If
you have age limits as high as 25 you have the potential of creating
this kind of youth illicit market," she said.

The CMA also weighed in on other aspects of a future marijuana regime
that it hopes would be applied consistently from coast to coast.

The group recommended that pot be sold in places that already sell
controlled substances - such as liquor stores - rather than in
pharmacies, which could risk lending marijuana "credibility as
pharmaceutical medication."

"We've never felt comfortable with the idea of promoting [marijuana]
as a medical product," Dr. Blackmer said.

Putting cannabis on the shelves of places such as liquor stores, where
the staff have experience asking for identification and warning
customers of a product's risks, "sends a message that [marijuana] is a
regulated product. This is not a health product. This is not going to
make your health get better. In fact, there are health risks of
consuming this product."

The doctors also urged Ottawa to ban homegrown weed, except for
medicinal users; to enact strict laws against drugged driving; to
forbid pot smoking in public places; and to undertake a "rigorous
review" of the rules currently in place for producing, packing,
storing and distributing medicinal pot before cannabis sales are
opened up to recreational users.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt