Pubdate: Sat, 16 Sep 2017
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Ashley Robinson


Bill C-45 proposes to allow kids aged 12-18 to legally possess
marijuana, but experts warn weed is 'very dangerous' for developing

As Canadians prepare for a new era of legalized recreational marijuana
use next summer, concern is growing about a little-known provision
wrapped into the bill that would allow kids as young as 12 to legally
possess pot.

The professed goal of the federal Liberals' Bill C-45 is to keep
marijuana out of the hands of criminals and youth, and to stop
criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana from
following people through their lives.

Tucked into the bill, among the pages of legislation, is a clause
stating youth, ages 12 to 18, will be able to possess up to five grams
of marijuana before facing criminal charges; adults will be allowed to
possess up to 30 grams.

"The whole idea here is that for a person that's that young with a
very small amount in their possession, they should not be subject to a
criminal prosecution and a criminal record," said Ralph Goodale,
federal minister for public safety and preparedness.

According to Goodale the proposed legislation takes a different stance
from the past, as criminalization of marijuana has led to an illegal
industry, which makes it more of a risk to youth.

"The objectives are to better protect our kids, to keep this substance
out of the hands of young people and to stop the flow of cash to crime
organizations. And that's what the bulk of the legislation is focused
on, including restrictions on any kind of advertising, promotions that
are aimed at young people," he said.

The federal Conservatives, the official Opposition, don't support the
legalization of marijuana and don't want youth to start using it.

"It's a struggle for the safety, for the health, especially health.
The Canadian Association of Medicine (says) that it's a very huge
problem for the health of the young," said Pierre Paul-Hus, critic for
public safety and preparedness.

While it will be legal for kids to possess weed, it will actually be
illegal for them to buy it or for people to sell it or any cannabis
accessories to them. As well, it is illegal for a young person to grow
and/or harvest cannabis.

The provinces will be able to control the age at which people will be
able to buy weed, with the minimum being 18 years old. However,
Goodale said there is wiggle room for provinces when it comes to
underage possession.

"The law is also sufficiently flexible that under provincial
jurisdiction, if provinces believe that offences should be created in
that category of young people with very small amounts, provinces would
have the jurisdiction to create those offences. But they would be
under provincial law. They would not be Criminal Code offences," he

Rand Teed, a local drug and alcohol educator and certified addictions
counsellor, was surprised to hear youth will be allowed to possess

"It's interesting because the first thing that they say (is) that this
whole bill is designed to protect young people from being able to
access and use cannabis. And then they've got (a) subsection which
says it's OK if it's under five grams," he said.

According to Teed, the message the federal government is giving is the
same as saying it's OK for kids to carry around liquor - just so long
as it's under a certain amount.

Paul-Hus has witnessed firsthand the message, with his own children
saying to him that they think it's now OK to smoke weed.

"Imagine the young kids from age 13, 14 years old - they don't
understand (it's a health concern) … It's a safety issue for the young
ones, a health issue, very dangerous, for brain damage," he said.

While the Conservatives oppose legalization, if it goes ahead as
planned there needs to be education about the effects of marijuana
use, said Paul-Hus.

Teed agrees: "This isn't as much as an enforcement thing as it is an
education thing. So parents, kids need to get better educated on this

Marijuana use has permanent negative effects on youth brain
development, particularly for emotional and social development,
according to Teed. Marijuana causes people to have problems learning
how to manage their emotions, which makes them resort to drug use to

"The perception is that we feel better, but the actuality is that we
feel less," Teed said.

As well, marijuana can affect how youth learn to handle life. Teed
said by starting to smoke weed at the age of 12 or 13, it can make
kids lose out on learning conflict management skills.

"By the time you're 17 or 18, you're still stuck with the emotional
tool kit of a 13- or 14-year-old and so everything seems to be more
complicated, more stressful, more difficult," he said.

"In actuality what's happened is that the drug has blocked the brain
development in terms of what was supposed to be going on."

While pot has serious effects on emotional and social development, it
also affects intellectual development, but not as much.

"Unfortunately that's kind of the only thing most people look at. Is
it making their marks go down?" Teed said.

Teed understands the government not wanting youth to be left with
permanent records for simple marijuana possession.

However, he said it could be handled similarly to underage alcohol
possession, with fines instead of criminal charges.

On Sept. 8 the provincial government launched a survey to gather
public input on how Saskatchewan should handle the legalization of
marijuana. The survey addresses age limits on cannabis sales, public
consumption, cannabis taxation and other issues, including potential
retail models, alongside questions about distribution and wholesaling.
The survey is available online until Oct. 6.

While the survey includes a section on determining the legal age for
consuming marijuana, there isn't a specific question about possession

The Ministry of Justice couldn't provide anyone for an interview.
However, in an email to the Leader-Post, a ministry spokesperson said
the province doesn't yet know what the regulations will look like for
youth and pot possession.

"(The regulations) will be determined as we continue developing the
legalization framework and legislation. We are using our public survey
to see what Saskatchewan people and stakeholders feel are the best
options as we develop our legalization framework," read the statement.

The Liberals plan to legalize recreational marijuana by July 1 next

The proposed legislation has been introduced in the House of Commons.
It now has to go before the standing committees for justice and legal
affairs, which will review it clause by clause.

- - With files from Morgan Modjeski
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