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Canadian Paediatric Society

Marijuana legislation must have strong measures to protect kids

Nov 24 2016

OTTAWA— As the federal government considers legalizing marijuana, the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) is urging strong measures to protect and discourage use by children and youth.

In a statement released today, the CPS recommends that the age to purchase marijuana be aligned with the legal smoking age (18 or 19 years, depending on the province/territory).  The CPS also recommends limiting the potency of products legally sold to those 18 to 25 years old.  

“Young adults frequently experiment with marijuana,” says Dr. Christina Grant, author of the new statement and member of the CPS Adolescent Health Committee. “By aligning the legal age for cannabis use with that for other legally controlled substances, young adults will have access to a regulated product, with a known potency. They’ll also be less likely to engage in high-risk illegal activities to access cannabis.”

The statement describes the many potentially harmful effects of cannabis use in children, including damage to critical brain development, significant risk of psychiatric illness, potential for addiction, and poor performance in school.

Parents or other adults who use marijuana should keep it out of reach to ensure young children do not accidentally ingest cannabis-containing food products. For older children, the CPS encourages parents to have an open discussion about the many risks of marijuana.

“We need to educate children and their families to reinforce that cannabis is not safe for young people,” says Dr. Grant. “Their developing brains are especially sensitive to the negative consequences of cannabis use.”

The CPS calls on the federal and provincial/territorial governments to:

  • Enact and rigorously enforce regulations on the cannabis industry to limit the availability and marketing of cannabis to minors.
  • Extend and align existing anti-tobacco legislation at all government levels (i.e., prohibiting smoking in public venues, smoking in cars where a child is present) to include cannabis.
  • Fund public education campaigns to reinforce that cannabis is not safe for children and youth by raising awareness of the harms associated with cannabis use and dependence. These campaigns should be developed in collaboration with youth leaders and should include messages from young opinion-leaders.
  • Invest in the development and implementation of programs for routine roadside detection of cannabinoids and determine suitable consequences for youth who are found to be under the influence.
  • Increase funding for the research, prevention and treatment of substance use in adolescents and young adults.
  • Increase funding for mental health promotion and for treating mental illness in this age group.
  • Consult with Indigenous communities on adapting legislation, preventative measures and/or interventions to meet local conditions and cultural requirements.
  • Actively monitor the impacts on youth of changes to cannabis legislation.




About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,300 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: Nov 24 2016