WORRY OVER POT BILL AGE LIMIT
Bill C-45 proposes to allow kids aged 12-18 to legally possess marijuana, but experts warn weed is ‘very dangerous’ for developing brains.
As Canadians prepare for a new era of legalized recreational marijuana use next summer, concern is growing about a little-known provision wrapped into the bill that would allow kids as young as 12 to legally possess pot.
The professed goal of the federal Liberals’ Bill C-45 is to keep marijuana out of the hands of criminals and youth, and to stop criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana from following people through their lives.
Tucked into the bill, among the pages of legislation, is a clause stating youth, ages 12 to 18, will be able to possess up to five grams of marijuana before facing criminal charges; adults will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams.
“The whole idea here is that for a person that’s that young with a very small amount in their possession, they should not be subject to a criminal prosecution and a criminal record,” said Ralph Goodale, federal minister for public safety and preparedness.
According to Goodale the proposed legislation takes a different stance from the past, as criminalization of marijuana has led to an illegal industry, which makes it more of a risk to youth.
“The objectives are to better protect our kids, to keep this substance out of the hands of young people and to stop the flow of cash to crime organizations. And that’s what the bulk of the legislation is focused on, including restrictions on any kind of advertising, promotions that are aimed at young people,” he said.
The federal Conservatives, the official Opposition, don’t support the legalization of marijuana and don’t want youth to start using it.
“It’s a struggle for the safety, for the health, especially health. The Canadian Association of Medicine (says) that it’s a very huge problem for the health of the young,” said Pierre Paul-Hus, critic for public safety and preparedness.
While it will be legal for kids to possess weed, it will actually be illegal for them to buy it or for people to sell it or any cannabis accessories to them. As well, it is illegal for a young person to grow and/or harvest cannabis.
The provinces will be able to control the age at which people will be able to buy weed, with the minimum being 18 years old. However, Goodale said there is wiggle room for provinces when it comes to underage possession.
“The law is also sufficiently flexible that under provincial jurisdiction, if provinces believe that offences should be created in that category of young people with very small amounts, provinces would have the jurisdiction to create those offences. But they would be under provincial law. They would not be Criminal Code offences,” he said.
Rand Teed, a local drug and alcohol educator and certified addictions counsellor, was surprised to hear youth will be allowed to possess pot.
“It’s interesting because the first thing that they say (is) that this whole bill is designed to protect young people from being able to access and use cannabis. And then they’ve got (a) subsection which says it’s OK if it’s under five grams,” he said.
According to Teed, the message the federal government is giving is the same as saying it’s OK for kids to carry around liquor — just so long as it’s under a certain amount.
Paul-Hus has witnessed firsthand the message, with his own children saying to him that they think it’s now OK to smoke weed.
“Imagine the young kids from age 13, 14 years old — they don’t understand (it’s a health concern) … It’s a safety issue for the young ones, a health issue, very dangerous, for brain damage,” he said.
While the Conservatives oppose legalization, if it goes ahead as planned there needs to be education about the effects of marijuana use, said Paul-Hus.
Teed agrees: “This isn’t as much as an enforcement thing as it is an education thing. So parents, kids need to get better educated on this stuff.”
Marijuana use has permanent negative effects on youth brain development, particularly for emotional and social development, according to Teed. Marijuana causes people to have problems learning how to manage their emotions, which makes them resort to drug use to help.
“The perception is that we feel better, but the actuality is that we feel less,” Teed said.
As well, marijuana can affect how youth learn to handle life. Teed said by starting to smoke weed at the age of 12 or 13, it can make kids lose out on learning conflict management skills.
“By the time you’re 17 or 18, you’re still stuck with the emotional tool kit of a 13- or 14-yearold and so everything seems to be more complicated, more stressful, more difficult,” he said.
“In actuality what’s happened is that the drug has blocked the brain development in terms of what was supposed to be going on.”
While pot has serious effects on emotional and social development, it also affects intellectual development, but not as much.
“Unfortunately that’s kind of the only thing most people look at. Is it making their marks go down?” Teed said.
Teed understands the government not wanting youth to be left with permanent records for simple marijuana possession.
However, he said it could be handled similarly to underage alcohol possession, with fines instead of criminal charges.
On Sept. 8 the provincial government launched a survey to gather public input on how Saskatchewan should handle the legalization of marijuana. The survey addresses age limits on cannabis sales, public consumption, cannabis taxation and other issues, including potential retail models, alongside questions about distribution and wholesaling. The survey is available online until Oct. 6.
While the survey includes a section on determining the legal age for consuming marijuana, there isn’t a specific question about possession ages.
The Ministry of Justice couldn’t provide anyone for an interview. However, in an email to the Leader-Post, a ministry spokesperson said the province doesn’t yet know what the regulations will look like for youth and pot possession.
“(The regulations) will be determined as we continue developing the legalization framework and legislation. We are using our public survey to see what Saskatchewan people and stakeholders feel are the best options as we develop our legalization framework,” read the statement.
The Liberals plan to legalize recreational marijuana by July 1 next year.
The proposed legislation has been introduced in the House of Commons. It now has to go before the standing committees for justice and legal affairs, which will review it clause by clause.
It’s a struggle for the safety, for the health, especially health. The Canadian Association of Medicine (says) that it’s a very huge problem for the health of the young.
An employee at Best Buds Society in Regina shows what five grams of marijuana looks likes.
The federal Liberal government plans to legalize recreational marijuana use by July 1, 2018.