Pubdate: Wed, 06 Dec 2017
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2017 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Solomon Israel
Page: A2


AS first reported in the Free Press, the Safe and Responsible
Retailing of Cannabis Act will set the minimum age to buy and possess
cannabis in Manitoba at 19, one year higher than the legal age
requirement for purchasing alcohol.

Tuesday's announcement means Manitoba is set to be the only province
where the legal ages to use alcohol and cannabis don't match.

Zach Walsh, a native Winnipegger who studies cannabis as a psychology
professor at the University of British Columbia, said the age
differential in Manitoba "seems a little incongruous."

"My concern would be that it incentivizes alcohol use... compared to
cannabis use. If it does that, it might reduce some of the benefits
that we could see from cannabis substituting for alcohol," he said.
"The evidence from states that have legalized medical cannabis suggest
that there's fewer road accidents, and that's most likely attributable
to people substituting cannabis for alcohol."

Rebecca Haines-Saah, an assistant professor of community health
sciences with the University of Calgary who has studied cannabis use
in youth, said the age gap makes Manitoba "an interesting exception"
in Canadian drug policy.

"We've made the argument time and time again that binge drinking and
alcohol misuse also have potential harms to the developing brain and
beyond," she said. "Alcohol is not safe at 18. It's a gap in public

Haines-Saah expressed concern setting a higher legal age to use
cannabis could actually backfire by preventing youth from accessing a
safe supply.

"I would rather see an 18-year-old purchasing cannabis from an
authorized outlet where they can hopefully know the THC content, they
would be assured that there's no mould or pesticides, and they could
potentially, depending on what the province has put in place for
retail, have an informed conversation with the people working in the
retail outlet about what they're buying and how to use it," she said.

"But the idea that we protect children all the time - I understand
people have legitimate concerns, but kids are already using. They're
already going to access cannabis, so I feel like that rationale gets
twisted a bit and misinterpreted."

Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and British Columbia have also
chosen 19 as the age of majority for marijuana, while Quebec and
Alberta have chosen 18.
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