According to a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health, jurisdictions that regulate marijuana use should consider imposing a minimum age requirement of 19.
For the study researchers examined life outcomes (including educational attainment and mental health) associated with the use of marijuana: They studies this across various age groups.
“In this study, we assumed that setting an MLA (minimum legal age) for cannabis use is necessary”, states the study, “and sought to determine an ‘optimal’ MLA. The choice of an MLA represents a trade-off that policymakers face between curtailing illegal economic activity versus safeguarding adolescents’ well-being.”
The study concludes by stating that: “While the (Canadian) medical community recommended an MLA of 21 or 25 based on neuroscientific evidence about adverse impacts of cannabis on cognitive development, this would lead to a large underground market for cannabis. On the contrary, policymakers have decided on a lower MLA such as 18 or 19 to curb the size of underground market, but this raises concerns about adverse outcomes for adolescents. This study, however, found that later life outcomes associated with first using cannabis at age 19 are better than those associated with first using it at age 18, but not significantly different from those first using between 21 and 25.. Our results suggest that there is merit in setting 19 as the MLA for non-medical cannabis use.”
The study is titled Too young for cannabis? Choice of minimum legal age for legalized non-medical cannabis in Canada.
The full abstract of the study can be found below:
Choice of minimum legal age (MLA) for cannabis use is a critical and contentious issue in legalization of non-medical cannabis. In Canada where non-medical cannabis was recently legalized in October 2018, the federal government recommended age 18, the medical community argued for 21 or even 25, while public consultations led most Canadian provinces to adopt age 19. However, no research has compared later life outcomes of first using cannabis at these different ages to assess their merits as MLAs.
We used doubly robust regression techniques and data from nationally representative Canadian surveys to compare educational attainment, cigarette smoking, self-reported general and mental health associated with different ages of first cannabis use.
We found different MLAs for different outcomes: 21 for educational attainment, 19 for cigarette smoking and mental health and 18 for general health. Assuming equal weight for these individual outcomes, the ‘overall’ MLA for cannabis use was estimated to be 19 years. Our results were robust to various robustness checks.
Our study indicated that there is merit in setting 19 years as MLA for non-medical cannabis.