The minimum age for buying legal marijuana in Canada should be 25, according to Ottawa’s public health agency.
This was just one of a number of recommendations submitted by Ottawa Public Health to the country’s legalization task force seeking public input on the regulatory regime that will be put in place. The submission will be tabled before the Ottawa Board of Health on October 17 and includes 33 recommendations concerning harm reduction, safe ways to produce and distribute marijuana, medical marijuana access and public safety.
Gillian Connelly, manager of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with Ottawa Public Health, told CBC that a minimum purchasing age was a heavily discussed issue among the 28 health agencies who worked on the submission.
"We wanted to ensure that we're reducing access for youth," said Connelly.
"One of the things that the research clearly demonstrates is that early access to cannabis can have detrimental affects for brain development and the brain develops up to age 25.”
Ottawa Public Health believes the minimum age of 25 should be implemented nationwide and "must be coupled with rigorous enforcement and penalties for violations in order to be effective.”
Connelly added that there was no consensus among the health agencies on a minimum age for marijuana use, with some agencies voicing that it may be difficult to enforce different minimum ages for drinking and cannabis use.
"We'll have another kick at the can," said Connelly, "and should the federal government come up with a different recommendation in the spring, we'll reassess."
Other recommendations from Ottawa Public Health include:
• Prohibit advertising, marketing and sponsorship and employ plain packaging similar to legislation being considered for tobacco.
• Adopt a government-owned and controlled storefront system for distribution.
• Ban consumption of marijuana in workplaces and indoor and outdoor public spaces.
• Regulate base pricing based on THC content — the drug that gives marijuana its potency.
• Utilize controls on edible products, including child-proof packaging.
Ottawa Public Health is also suggesting a portion of cannabis revenues be injected into more research to address the "many gaps in knowledge”, as well as investments in education and prevention (particularly toward adolescents) and those with "a personal or family history of mental illness."