When adults are left to make rules for other adults, we can sometimes lose sight of how those rules might impact the minors and children in our lives. As adults, however, we have a duty to protect those children, just as much as protecting adults from themselves.
Cannabis and related products can be hazardous to the health of adults when not regulated properly, and that can be more significantly true for children if we aren’t doing due diligence. Minor children’s brains are still forming and developing, even into the early 20s, and so foreign chemicals and substances – even if they are “natural” – can provide significantly more risk to the health of the children than the same amounts will do to grown adults.
With the signing of the Cannabis Act into law in Canada, cannabis will soon be legal to possess, sell, buy, distribute and cultivate with strict regulation, taxation and enforcement measures. Come July, cannabis use will be legal in Canada, and part of the challenge with this new law is to protect children from a harmful drug.
Cannabis: Child Protection
Usually where there are adults, there are children not that far away. Part of the creation of the legislation is taking children into account, which explains the restrictions on personal grows and sales of cannabis and cannabis products. This legislation has several specific provisions designed to protect children from cannabis:
- Providing or selling to minors is prohibited;
- Using a minor to buy, sell, import, or otherwise distribute cannabis is a crime;
- A prohibition against “appealing” advertising to minors based on packaging or labeling;
- Similar advertising and marketing prohibitions that are in place for tobacco products are also applied to cannabis products – in other words, they are not to appeal to children or persuade them to use cannabis; and
- Prohibiting self-serve or vending-machine dispensations of cannabis, and allowing for regulations to require childproof packaging.
Currently, the Canadian government is undergoing a public-education initiative regarding the Cannabis Act and the risks associated with use of the drug. The government wants to ensure that the public is informed about rights, responsibilities and risks with using cannabis, paying special attention to particularly vulnerable populations – the indigenous, pregnant or breastfeeding women, minors, the elderly and infirmed, and those who have or are predisposed to a mental illness, as cannabis may have special impact on these populations compared to others.
The Age Limit Debate
There is an interest aspect to the Cannabis Act that may still be debated even after the law takes full effect in October, 2018 – and that is the minimum age.
As many medical experts have said that the human brain isn’t fully developed until the early to mid-20s, cannabis use can have a heightened impact on brains before the age of 25, or the age of maximum mental maturity. The Cannabis Act, however, gives the legal age of cannabis use as 18 and not 25. Why go against medical advice?
It’s a balancing act, it is said. It is reported that youth use of cannabis in Canada is among the highest in the world, and the government has the intention of limiting or eliminating cannabis use among the youth in the illegal or black market. The legislation did not want to set an age limit that was too high to encourage youth to use and possess cannabis illegally to meet their “needs.”
(An editorial aside: This reeks of enabling. This sounds like, “Well, our kids are going to use anyway, so why not make the age low enough that a good percentage of young adults will follow through on their usage in a legal and regulated way?” The experts say that cannabis will adversely affect human brains before age 25, so why take a defeatist attitude that we may not be able to stop the use, so let’s make illegal use as accessible as possible? Maybe we need to protect our children better by educating the adults and the youth about the effects and encourage them to stop using until they turn at least 21, if not 25. Just my two cents, being a mom myself.)
However, while the legislation places the age limit at 18 across the country, all of the individual provinces and territories reserve the right to increase their age limits.
Speaking of which – next time we’ll go into the Cannabis Act and the roles and responsibilities of the territories, provinces and municipalties in protecting the youth and the adults.