September 8, 2016 11:11 am

Make 21 the minimum age to smoke pot, Canadian Medical Association urges gov’t

Pot activist Marc Emery visits The Morning Show to discuss if marijuana should be treated like alcohol in Ontario and across the nation.

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Canadians shouldn’t be legally allowed to smoke pot until they’re 21 years old, the Canadian Medical Association says. There should be a minimum age for buying and possessing marijuana that would apply across Canada, the organization representing the country’s doctors suggests.

As Ottawa works through its plans for legalizing pot, the CMA submitted its recommendations to the federal government’s marijuana task force. They say protecting young Canadians should be the “first objective” of legalization.

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“The CMA has longstanding concerns about the health risks associated with consuming marijuana, particularly in smoked form. Children and youth are particularly at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development,” the CMA wrote in a statement to Global News.

The CMA, which represents 83,000 doctors across the country, says the government needs to broaden its vantage point and the issues at play in legalizing marijuana.

“Focusing on the legalization issue alone is inadequate to deal with the complexity of the situation …we must recognize that the legalization of marijuana is a complex matter,” the doctors warned in their statement.

Keep in mind, minimum age limits are already in place for tobacco and alcohol. (Those age restrictions vary depending on the province – the CMA says a minimum age when it comes to pot should be consistent across the country.)

WATCH ABOVE: Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale discusses the federal government panel of health, policy, and law enforcement experts who will help establish the federal government’s legal framework for marijuana legalization.

They say legalization also needs to factor in:

  • Marketing and packaging restrictions.
  • Restrictions on products and potency.
  • Expanding access to support services, such as mental health and substance abuse aid.

READ MORE: Could marijuana help treat painkiller and heroin addiction?

If the country is going to legalize marijuana, there should be an expansion to training programs in addiction medicine and educational resources on the potential risks, too, the doctors say.

In their submission, they point to a string of concerns tied to the health effects of marijuana: addiction, cardiovascular issues, chronic bronchitis, as examples. They even say marijuana usage is linked to an “increased risk” of mental health issues, such as schizophrenia.

About one in five Canadians between 15 and 24 smoke pot, according to 2011 statistics. That’s double the general population.

In a 2011 survey, 25 per cent of youth who admitted to trying weed within the previous three months were smoking it daily.

Most kids started at about 16 years old.

READ MORE: What is shatter or dabbing? Experts warn of dangerous new marijuana trend

The CMA also urged Ottawa to “learn from lessons” out of Colorado and Washington.

“Colorado has seen an increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths and an increase in the use of health care due to intoxication, burns and cyclic vomiting syndrome, as well as overdoses in children due to marijuana in edibles,” the CMA said.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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