Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

CMA Calls for Age Increase for Youth Using Legalized Marijuana

"Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people. It is toxic to their cortical neuronal networks, with both functional and structural changes seen in the brains of youth who use cannabis regularly."
"Most of us [doctors] know a young person whose life was derailed because of marijuana use."
"You can end up with a bright boy or girl with promise, who's ended up basically on the fringes of society. That is why I wrote this editorial. My worry is this legislation will increase the likelihood that kids who are vulnerable will have easier access to marijuana."
"There is a higher risk of having these mental-health disorders [among young people who smoke marijuana]."
Dr. Diane Kelsall, interim editor-in-chief, Canadian Medical Association Journal
4/20 cannabis
In this April 20, 2016, file photo, people smoke marijuana during a 4/20 cannabis culture rally in Toronto. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

It was a campaign promise that the current Prime Minister of Canada made to the electorate, one among many, most of which promises have not in fact been kept. But the promise to pass Bill C-45, to legalize marijuana use with certain provisions is one that appears to be on track for implementation. And if and when passed, this Bill would legalize marijuana use for adults over the age of 18, even though current research shows the human brain reaches maturity around age 25.

That's a problem, given the fact that a Canadian Paediatric Society position paper on cannabis points to its effects on children and youth making them vulnerable to serious potential effects such as increased mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis. Lowered school performance and diminished lifetime achievement are linked to the use of marijuana by young people whose brains are still developing. Developing out of marijuana use is an increased risk of smoking tobacco; the risk of impaired neurological development and allied cognitive decline; and addiction risk.

Canadian youth were recognized to rank highest in use of cannabis among 43 countries in Europe and North America, according to a 2010 study. By the time Canadian youth reach age 15, one third had smoked marijuana at least once. Although the Liberal government states its bill is meant to prevent youth from acquiring cannabis, the bill permits up to four plants to be grown for personal use. "If it's a public health approach, why would you have that available in people's homes?" asks Dr. Kelsall.

"What is going to happen over time is you're going to have people with four very, very (potent) plants and there's no way that you would know that youth aren't accessing those plants." That, in the face of studies of MRI's show definite changes in people's brains who smoke marijuana is extremely worrying for its link to mental-health problems, particularly concerning young people. Bill C-45 would make it possible through changes to the Criminal Code, for anyone selling marijuana to youth to be sentenced up to 14 years in prison. Tougher punishments for driving under the influence are also contemplated.

The Canadian Medical Association has recommended that government raise the legal age for buying marijuana to 21, that the quantity and potency of marijuana those under 25 could access be restricted. These, adds Dr. Kelsall are "pragmatic recommendations" meant to balance the need to protect young people, in recognition that youth who cannot buy marijuana legally will manage to acquire it from illegal sources.

A pot smoker has a joint at the annual 4/20 day, which promotes the use of marijuana, in Vancouver. Cannabis shouldn't be used by young people, a medical journal editorial says.
A pot smoker has a joint at the annual 4/20 day, which promotes the use of marijuana, in Vancouver. Cannabis shouldn't be used by young people, a medical journal editorial says. (David Horemans/CBC)

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