In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation that would allow adults to possess, share and purchase marijuana, while also strengthening penalties for those who give or sell the products to youth.

Clker-Free-Vector-Images via pixabay
Clker-Free-Vector-Images via pixabay

The Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, has received praise from several high level officials in the country to include Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Bill Blair and Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, who said, “The Cannabis Act will help keep our children safe and address the health risks associated with cannabis. The proposed legislation would allow Canadian adults to possess and purchase regulated and quality-controlled cannabis products, while prohibiting sales to young Canadians and any products, promotion, packaging or labeling that could be appealing to young people.”

However, not everyone is on board and the interim editor-in-chief of Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is calling on the Parliament to vote against it.

Diane Kelsall, MD, MEd wrote in an editorial published today in the CMAJ that legalizing marijuana in Canada will jeopardize the health of young people.

“Simply put, cannabis should not be used by young people,” says Dr. Kelsall. “It is toxic to neurons, and regular use of marijuana can actually change their developing brains.”

The bill would make it legal for Canadians aged 18 and older to grow, buy and use recreational marijuana.

Kelsall writes:

The Canadian Paediatric Society cautions that marijuana use in youth is strongly linked to “cannabis dependence and other substance use disorders; the initiation and maintenance of tobacco smoking; an increased presence of mental illness, including depression, anxiety and psychosis; impaired neurological development and cognitive decline; and diminished school performance and lifetime achievement.” The lifetime risk of dependence on marijuana is about 9%; however, this increases to almost 17% in those who start using as teenagers.

Drawing on current evidence that suggests that the human brain appears to mature until about age 25 years, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), in its response to the federal task force report, recommended that the minimum age of purchase and consumption be set at 21 years.

The Canadian government’s bullet-point fact sheet on the proposed Cannabis Act

Dr Kelsall closes by saying: “The government appears to be hastening to deliver on a campaign promise without being careful enough about the health impacts of policy. It’s not good enough to say that provinces and territories can set more stringent rules if they wish. If Parliament truly cares about the public health and safety of Canadians, especially our youth, this bill will not pass.”