How marijuana legalization could impact youth
The legal age to consume marijuana is a major discussion in provincial governments across the country, and it’s also a topic of interest in high school hallways.
“I think it should be the same as the drinking age,” one Regina 16-year-old said.
“I think it should be 18 as well because that’s the legal age to buy tobacco and everything, so I think it should be the same,” another 15-year-old said.
Eight provinces have set the minimum age to 19. In Alberta and Quebec, the minimum age has been set to 18.
Saskatchewan has yet to determine the minimum legal age, but some officials have been calling for as high as 25 and as low as 19.
“We don’t want the age to be too young that it affects developing minds of young kids,” Mayor Michael Fougere said. “So we’re concerned about that too.”
Drug and alcohol counsellor Rand Teed says a person’s brain should be fully developed by 25, which would mean more mature marijuana use. But he admits, 19 makes the most sense structurally.
“Structurally, I think it needs to be the same as alcohol,” Teed said. “If it’s any different you’re just really continuing to encourage illegal purchasing.”
According to Statistics Canada, in 2015 40.1 per cent of adolescents in Saskatchewan reported using cannabis and 10.2 per cent reported cannabis use within the last year. In 2013, those numbers 34 per cent and 8.4 per cent, respectively.
Teed also worries about the impacts marijuana use can have on the developing teenage brain.
“From 14 to 18 or 19, there’s a huge amount of important development going on, and what’s happening is the brain is learning how to manage social situations, stress situations, disappointment, loss, all of those kinds of things,” Teed said. “Those are very important processes that are supposed to happen with people. Kids who start to use substances, short circuit that process.”
Teed says the issue with legalization, is that it makes marijuana consumption seem less risky to teenagers.
“There’s been that reduced-risk perception from teenagers since that whole legalization discussion started,” Teed said. “Their thinking has changed from it’s illegal, maybe it’s not ok’, to it’s going to be legal, so it must be ok’. So their risk perception has gone down, so there’s less concern from them to go and try this stuff.”
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.