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.

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - ASH­LEY ROBIN­SON With files from Mor­gan Mod­jeski arobin­son@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ash­leymr1993

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.

PIERRE PAUL-HUS

TROY FLEECE

An em­ployee at Best Buds So­ci­ety in Regina shows what five grams of mar­i­juana looks likes.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES

The fed­eral Lib­eral govern­ment plans to le­gal­ize recre­ational mar­i­juana use by July 1, 2018.

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