Researchers Suggest Minimum Age for Marijuana Use Should be Increased

The minimum approved age for nonmedical marijuana use should be 19, not 18, suggests a new study published in BMC Public Health.

According to the study individuals aged between 19 and 20 using marijuana for recreation are less likely to smoke cigarettes as compared to adolescents subjected to earlier use of drug at young age of below 18.

Source: NASPA

Before the legislation in Canada, the endorsed minimum legal age (MLA) for non-medical cannabis use was 21 or 25. The optimal recommendation age was based on the evidence that marijuana has potential negative effects on cognitive. Thought, policy makers fear that legalizing cannabis at high age will have consequences and may lead to escalation in underground markets selling cannabis to minors illegitimately. Therefore, the young age group of 19, 18, or under 18 is decided to be legal for non-medical cannabis use. However, there is a continuous objection and debate going on to increase the legal age to 21.

Source: NASPA

The Cannabis Study

A group of researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, inspected how Canadians start to use cannabis at early young age. The age group varies across essential outcomes in later life including smoking cigarette, attaining education, self-reported general as well as mental health problems.

The authors of the study presumed that determining the optimal age for legal nonmedical cannabis use will have consequences and impact on the outcomes in later life. The researchers inspected the data retrieved from the nationwide representative surveys led between 2004 – 2015, namely, Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Surveys (CTUMS), Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Surveys (CTADS). They questioned over 20,000 young individuals with ages of 15 and above 15.

It was found that different proposed minimal legal ages for non-medical cannabis rely on the consequence of personal interest. In case of smoking, the optimal age of first marijuana use was 19 to 20 and those individuals were less likely to smoke cigarette latter in their life. On the other hand, individuals who used cannabis at the age of 18 were more likely to use cigarette later in life. However, no significant difference was found in those individuals who first use cannabis at 21 or above as compared to those who first used it at 19. It indicates that optimal age of legal use of non-medical cannabis can be presumed as 19 and above.

The study revealed that over 16% of the individuals, who responded in the survey had completed higher education, were among those folks who started using cannabis between 21 – 24 years of age in relation to youth under 18.  It implicates the optimal age of legal use should be 21. Moreover, the health outcomes were better among young individuals aged 18, who started taking cannabis earlier comparative to those who took cannabis before turning to 18. But there was no significant difference indicating which group started taking drugs in the later life (whether under 18 or 18). It suggests considering age of 18 for legal use. Yet, proportion of mental health outcomes was reported higher in age group 19 to 20 relative to under 18 age group, implying the optimal minimum legal age of 19.

The lead author of the study, Dr Hai Nguyen, from School of Pharmacy at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, states:

The lower level of completed education reported in those who first used cannabis at an earlier age may reflect poor neurological development or a higher ‘drop-out’ rate from further education. It is also possible that those who initiate cannabis use early may use it as a gateway for further illicit drug use, resulting in poorer health in later life, which may explain the poor general or mental health scores recorded in the study.

The research findings suggest the minimum legal age for non-medical cannabis use should be 19 which may ensure balance between illegitimate use of cannabis and adverse health outcomes. Dr Nguyen added:

Keeping the legal age below 21 may strike a balance between potential increases in underground markets and illegal use, and avoiding the adverse outcomes associated with starting to use cannabis at an earlier age.

Source: NASPA

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