OTTAWA — An editorial in the latest Canadian Medical Association Journal says the Trudeau government's plan to legalize marijuana will put young people at risk by setting 18 as the benchmark minimum age for buying pot.
The article says cannabis has harmful effects on young brains, noting that the association recommends the legislation restrict the amount and potency of pot available to those under the age of 25.
The Liberal legislation sets 18 as the basic age for purchase and consumption, but allows provinces to raise that to coincide with their age limits for alcohol consumption.
The editorial says regular use of cannabis by young people can hurt developing brains.
The government says the purpose of the legislation is to protect public health and safety, but the bill falls short of this objective, the editorial argues — especially when it comes to young people.
It also predicts that the legislation will result in a substantial increase in impaired driving, particularly among the young.
"Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people," says the editorial, which appears under the name of Diane Kelsall, the journal's interim editor-in-chief.
The article also opposes a provision in the bill which would allow for personal cultivation of up to four marijuana plants, each no more than one metre in height.
"Allowing personal cultivation will increase the risk of diversion and access to cannabis that is not subject to any quality or potency controls," it says.
"This is not consistent with the act’s goals of establishing strict safety and quality requirements for cannabis and restricting its access to youth."
The editorial says the legislation should not become law.
"The government appears to be hastening to deliver on a campaign promise without being careful enough about the health impacts of policy.... If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass."
The legislation and an accompanying bill tightening up laws against impaired driving are being debated in the House of Commons and the association's position is playing a role.
"Medical evidence indicates marijuana impacts brain development up to age 25 and we believe it affects brain function after that," Conservative MP David Anderson said during debate on Monday.
"This government seems to think that 18 is OK. The public disagrees, all polls show that.
"How is the government going to address this issue seriously of young people being exposed to this drug prior to when they should be?"