- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Health officials in Canada’s capital city want the federal government to restrict marijuana sales to individuals 25 and older as the nation prepares to legalize weed within the next few years, according to newly released documents.

The minimum age requirement is one of 33 recommendations included in a report put together by Canada’s Public Health Agency and expected to be considered by the Ottawa Board of Health next week, CBC reported Wednesday.

More than two dozen health agencies worked together to come up recommendations they believe will minimize harm if and when Canada gets a legal cannabis program off the ground. Health Minister Jane Philpott previously said Liberals will introduce legislation to legalize pot next spring, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised before taking office that he’ll see it succeeds.

Gillian Connelly, the manager of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with OPH, told CBC that establishing a minimum age was the issue discussed most frequently among the 28 agencies who worked together on writing recommendations to be considered by the government’s marijuana task force in anticipation of eventual legalization.

“We wanted to ensure that we’re reducing access for youth,” she said. “One of the things that the research clearly demonstrates is that early access to cannabis can have detrimental affects for brain development and the brain develops up to age 25.”

The Canadian Medical Association neither supports nor opposes legalization, but told the federal task force in a report of its own last month that “ideally” the minimum pot-smoking age should be 25. Speaking to the Toronto Star, however, Dr. Jeff Blackmer of the CMA’s policy formulation group said it was unrealistic to set age limits in stone. 

“It’s trying to find that balance between what the scientific evidence says and what is sort of the art of the possible,” he told the newspaper.

Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 smoke twice as much marijuana as the country’s general population, the Star reported. In order to discourage young scofflaws, Ms. Connelly of the OPH said the agencies agreed that a minimum age restriction “must be coupled with rigorous enforcement and penalties for violations in order to be effective.”

Medical marijuana is currently legal in Canada with a doctor’s prescription, and residents of the West Coast can acquire recreational weed if they journey south of the border into Washington state.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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