The trouble with minimum age cannabis laws

Published Jul 6, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / SirikulT

As many countries realize the potential of federal legalization, it seems to be inevitable that soon all regions will have some form of legal weed system in place, but that also means more rules for consumers. Though some regulations, such as impaired driving laws, make complete sense in certain situations, others such as the legal age for cannabis consumption are highly debated and for a good reason.

What is consumption of cannabis?

When we talk about the consumption of cannabis or its derivatives, we mean the products that are libel to get you stoned because they are directly ingested in some manner or another. It could be through edibles which are eaten, the flower that is smoked or turned into a tea, or the oil which can be smoked vaped or encapsulated for quick use. Topical products do not fit into this category because they are unable to produce the same euphoric effects, so youth are generally not banned from using them.

How is the minimum legal age decided?

The legal age for cannabis consumption typically ranges between 18-21 years of age depending on the situation in question. This restriction is generally placed on products and activities that are considered to be a risk to the development or overall wellbeing of our youth, and researchers have worked for years to try figuring out where the line should be for cannabis to no avail.

Some studies seem to imply that those under a certain age are more susceptible to adverse effects from cannabis use, and others show with utmost certainty how it can be beneficial in some situations, but the risk is considered to be enough to place a limit that is generally steered by whatever little scientific evidence we have to rely upon for guidance. Since we have very little to go on, these rulings are made as general protection for minors who may fall victim to the potential adverse effects.

That’s a good thing, right?

To answer this question, yes and no. Though it certainly sounds like a great idea to ban anyone who may suffer after abusing cannabis, from having the chance to do so, this general consensus doesn’t take into account many personal situations that are happening all over, even in legal regions. It also doesn’t leave much room for accommodations that might help some minors who are facing unusual circumstances, and that leaves thousands of people who aren’t quite of legal age to suffer.

Can’t minors who aren’t of legal age just get a prescription?

Many would love to believe that it’s so simple as seeking out a medical license for youth who need it, but what are patients to do who don’t have a family doctor that is supportive of such an alternative treatment? Then there are those with medical conditions who might benefit from cannabis, but they cannot receive a prescription, because there isn’t enough clinical evidence to convince even the most progressive thinking doctor that it’s the best course of treatment.

Adults in the world today still very much struggle to obtain a valid medical license for their cannabis use, and for minors, the challenge is even more difficult. Some areas even go so far as to ban the prescription of cannabis products to minors unless they are actively dying, and this leaves thousands of youth without access to what could be a lifesaving medicine.

Medical freedom should always be a choice

Parents can give their children drugs like melatonin that are known to cause adverse effects with extended use with little and they can buy it right over the counter without a valid prescription, and yet for many, the task of accessing safe and effective cannabis is nearly impossible. With the benefits that we know about cannabis today, we should be able to choose this form of treatment when and if the situation calls for it. Like in the case of a 17-year old who manages extreme anxiety or a 6-year-old who reduces the severity of her seizures with oil, it really shouldn’t require the blessing of a doctor to try.

More parents are requesting medical cannabis products for their kids

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