For decades, teenagers have been purchasing and consuming marijuana from dealers. Either meeting at someone’s house, or taking a drive around the block were usually how these interactions took place. These illegal transactions were conducted without the concern or consideration of the customers age, the only necessary I.D. was a crisp bank note.
Although the recreational usage of marijuana is still to be legalized, government officials have already taken measures to place limitations on cannabis (and merchandise) possession and the legal age of consumption. On March 14th of this year, the province announced it had determined that 19 will be the lowest appropriate age for citizens to purchase and ingest recreational cannabis. This age limitation is consistent with the province’s restriction of alcohol, which is also set for 19 years of age.
Both consumers and business owners within the cannabis industry voiced their concerns when asked about the government’s decision and wonder if 19 is in-fact old enough. “I wouldn’t’ mind seeing the limit pushed to 21,” said Kelly Csada, local Regina business owner of Kelz, a non-profit organization offering medicinal cannabis in various forms to patients with medical prescriptions, provided by healthcare professionals. “At 19, the human brain is still developing, it needs more time to grow and mature. So, in my opinion there would be no harm in waiting a few more years.”
Csada believes in the healing power of the cannabis plant and doesn’t sell her products to customers for solely recreational purposes. She urges that if the age limitation of recreational marijuana went higher than 19, the restrictions for alcohol would have to accompany, citing alcohol as a far worse substance to be consuming, regardless of age. “I know people who have been smoking recreationally their whole lives and have never missed a day of work or become seriously ill,” said Csada. “Opposite to the affects I’ve seen with alcohol.”
“I think they possibly should’ve even gone further with the recommendation of the medical community to 25 years old,” says Mitch Johnston, a product specialist at Whole Leaf Healing Tree and cannabis user of nearly 50 years. “Because the mind is still changing, I’ve known people who started young, starting at maybe 10 or 12 years old, and now he’s about 22, yet to have a job, doesn’t have any gumption or get up and go. So that’s the kind of thing I don’t want to see.”
Similar to Csada, Johnston considers alcohol and cigarettes a larger threat to Saskatchewan’s youth than cannabis. “I see severe alcohol problems as more of an issue in today’s society than anything else. And the thing that gets me is that it’s all legal. I worked for the E.M.S. for 15 years, and in that 15 years I can only remember one call that was in response to marijuana. You can’t O.D. on pot.”
“I honestly don’t know how they are going to regulate it and control it, I just don’t see it happening,” said Csada in regard to the governments involvement in producing and dispensing recreational marijuana while ensuring the policies and restrictions they have put in place are carried through amicably. Policies such as the sale price and taxation of government issued marijuana (which is yet to be determined), a concern that if the price is too expensive, people will just revert back to getting it cheaper from dealers. And restrictions such as prohibiting the usage of recreational marijuana in public places, such as schools for public health and safety considerations, which could require a larger police force and budget to facilitate.
The non-compliance of minors to the age restrictions will either result in ticketed fines, or even a criminal offence if caught with more than five grams in their possession under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Only time will tell if the age is right. An initial date for the legalization of cannabis was set for July 1st, a date that Prime Minister Trudeau has continued to push back without giving an exact time frame. There is speculation he is going to use recreational marijuana as a platform in the next federal election in 2019.