The nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy says Canada’s move to legalize marijuana was wrong and he says it will cause an increase of opioid addictions in the future.
The former U.S. politician, Patrick Kennedy, was in Toronto on Thursday, after being named Edgewood Health Network’s newest advisory board member.
He has been a vocal opponent of the drug, saying that legalization will expose youth to the dangers of addiction.
“The act of legalization is going to have the most tragic outcomes amongst our young people. They are going to feel anxiety … they are going to have easy access to marijuana, they are going to use marijuana to treat their anxiety and as such, they are going to have a whole host of other health consequences,” he said.
Marijuana was legalized in Canada on Oct. 17 under the Cannabis Act, and in Ontario, people over the age 19 are able to grow and purchase marijuana through the online Ontario Cannabis Store.
Storefront operations will come in spring of 2019, however, municipalities like Markham and Mississauga have opted of marijuana storefront sales.
WATCH: Cannabis and the developing brain
“We should be very careful to make the association that simply by limiting the number of storefronts, that we are going to limit our exposure to the problem,” he said.
“There is this de-risking, this perception that it’s not such a big deal to smoke marijuana. You are invariably going to have more people try marijuana who wouldn’t otherwise smoke it or eat it.”
Several states in the U.S. have made the move to legalize marijuana, including California, Colorado and Massachusetts, but Kennedy said the move is reminiscent of what happened with tobacco decades ago.
“My late father — Sen. Edward Kennedy – fought the big tobacco companies who lied for 50 years about the harmful impact of tobacco and cigarettes and I worry that big marijuana is really big tobacco,” he said.
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“It’s hiding behind what we know to be the case and that is that they are very harmful impacts on a person on both short- and long-term use.”
Having struggled with mental health and addiction, Kennedy said the move to legalize marijuana will increase the number of opioid addictions in Canada.
“There are going to be higher opioid addiction because of this. There are going to be higher other types of addiction. It just didn’t make sense to me that in a time where we are trying to put out a five-alarm fire, that we add more gasoline to that fire by adding a new addictive substance,” he said.
“Perhaps it’s not as addictive as fentanyl or opioids, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. Just because it’s not as bad, that’s not the reason to justify making it legal.”