HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Health Groups Support 19 As Minimum Age For Pot In Ontario
Pubdate: Sat, 09 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Elizabeth Payne
Page: 4


The provincial government's plan to make 19 the minimum age for legal
marijuana use in Ontario got support Friday from health organizations
- - including some that had been pushing for a higher minimum age.

Ottawa Public Health, for example, suggested 25 was a better minimum
age when asked for input by the federal government last year.

Twenty-five is the age at which brains fully mature. A growing body of
evidence shows that marijuana use earlier can do permanent damage to
developing brains and that adolescents are at particular risk because
their brains are growing rapidly.

But Friday, Ottawa Public Health and the Canadian Medical Association,
both of which had pushed for a higher minimum age for legalization,
supported Ontario's move, saying the plan to regulate sale and use of
the drug makes sense and is pragmatic. Ottawa Public Health applauded
the fact that Ontario moved the minimum age up a year from the federal
recommendation of 18.

University of Ottawa associate professor Andra Smith, whose research
using functional MRIs demonstrated the negative impact of marijuana on
teenage brains when it comes to executive function, said 19 makes
sense as a minimum age, even though brain development is not complete.

Canadian teens are already using marijuana at among the highest rates
in the world. If the minimum age was set at 25, that would not change,
she noted, they would continue to buy it on the black market without
the benefit of regulation. She added that it is significant Ontario
made the minimum age 19, not 18 - not only does it line up with
alcohol laws, but every year makes a difference.

"Every year you do not use is better," she said.

Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist with the Institute for Mental
Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, agreed
the longer people delay use in teenage years - for alcohol or cannabis
- - makes a big difference to harm outcomes.

He said 19 is logical as the minimum age for cannabis use. "It doesn't
make a lot of sense to say it is fine to drink when you are 19, but to
smoke weed you have to be 25."

He added that the focus on the impact of cannabis on teen brains often
misses the fact that other activities are equally, or more, harmful to
teen brains.

"If you were really concerned about brain development you wouldn't let
young people play hockey, you wouldn't let them drink alcohol or let
them get behind the wheel of a car."

Fischer said it is positive to see CAMH's guidelines on low-risk
cannabis use adopted by the provincial government. Among other things,
those guidelines recommend starting use later, and that prevention
messages should emphasize that "the later cannabis use is initiated,
the lower the risks will be for adverse effects on the user's general
health and welfare throughout later life."
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