Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2017
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Andy Riga
Page: A3


Eighteen or 21? The age of legal pot consumption was a topic of debate
at hearings on Thursday, with two medical associations at odds.

The Canadian Pediatric Society said 18 should be the minimum age to
legally purchase recreational marijuana when the federal government
legalizes it by July 1, 2018.

A few minutes later, the Federation des medecins specialistes du
Quebec, representing medical specialists, said it should be 21.

The two groups were among dozens of organizations presenting briefs at
a provincial public consultation in Montreal on Thursday and Friday.

The sheer number of concerns and issues mentioned at the hearing
showed the province has its work cut out for it as it prepares to
introduce legislation this fall to regulate marijuana. Age is a key

"We think 18-year-olds should be allowed because you drink, you vote,
you can buy tobacco and alcohol," Jean-Yves Frappier, a Hopital
Ste-Justine pediatrician, told reporters after presenting a brief for
the Canadian Pediatric Society.

Frappier said legalization will banalize pot use, raising the risk
that more people under 18 will smoke or abuse pot. That's why
information campaigns should be launched to say, "no, it's not like
tobacco, like alcohol, it has detrimental effects" for teenagers,
Frappier said.

But he said it would be illogical to have a higher age for marijuana
when alcohol and tobacco are also known to have detrimental effects.

"The brain is developing during adolescence and probably much less at
18 to 24," he added.

The detrimental effects of marijuana are related to "regular, constant
use - weekly, probably, or many times a week," he said. However, "at
18 years old, very few will start and abuse. The abuse will begin before."

But Diane Francoeur, president of the medical specialists' federation,
said pediatricians may not realize how difficult it is to get help for
young people with drug problems who are over 18.

"We know that after 18 the child protective services are not there
anymore so it's really hard to get them help, see a social worker or
help parents who are stuck with drug-issue problems," she said.

The federation polled its members and 80 per cent said the legal age
should be at least 21, with those who are parents more inclined to say

Francoeur said the first thing marijuana taxes should be spent on is
prevention, with a minimum of $100 million a year needed.

Fearing an increase in cannabis-related road crashes, Mothers Against
Drunk Driving urged Quebec to immediately institute a zero tolerance
for drug use among drivers the way it has for alcohol.

Under the province's zero-alcohol rule, a driver under 22 can be
arrested for impaired driving even if their blood alcohol is under the
legal limit.

"Once this was implemented for alcohol, it had an impact - youth said,
'Oh, they're serious about this,' " MADD spokesperson Marie Claude
Morin said.

Some of the other questions raised at the hearing:

Who will sell pot? Cactus Montreal, a group that works with drug users
and runs a safe-injection site, favoured a non-profit model,
suggesting co-operatives be set up. What if an intoxicated worker
causes a workplace accident?

The Federation des chambres de commerce du Quebec says employers
should be allowed to sue a worker for a fault committed at work
because of impairment. What if your neighbour's pot smoke enters your

The Quebec Landlords Association wants to be able to renegotiate
leases to ban pot smoking in apartment buildings.

Will pot cafes be allowed? An entrepreneur planning to operate pot
tours for tourists said he also wants to set up a marijuana cafe,
similar to cigar, pipe and shisha lounges where smoking is allowed.

Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said she's in listening mode
and will not take a position until the government presents a bill
before winter.
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