Like many young people the world over, I was offered my first joint at age 14. I declined – having two parents with substance abuse problems will do that to you, and in fact, my high school BFF was also a non-drug user, even as her parents were avid tokers. But even though I had no interest in marijuana, I was aware that pot was available at my high school, and that finding a joint to buy or share didn’t require much detective work.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in Canada and worldwide, and many Canadian teens are certainly familiar with it. In fact, according to the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey–Mental Health, 20% of Canadians ages 15 to 17 had used marijuana in the past year.
Medical experts would like to see those numbers go down, as cannabis use in adolescence can cause brain damage.
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, cannabis use in adolescence is strongly linked to a variety of negative outcomes including increased mental illness, substance use disorders, impaired neurological development and cognitive decline.
Which brings us to the topic of age limits. Recreational cannabis use was legalized in Canada last October – but not for everyone. Like tobacco and alcohol, cannabis is a controlled substance with age limits in place to help keep it out of the hands of teens and children. The legal age to consume cannabis ranges is age 18 or 19 up, depending on province or territory.
Stiff penalties, up to a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, have been created to discourage anyone from selling or sharing pot with someone who is underage.
Safe and responsible pot use includes keeping all cannabis products away from youth. That includes:
- Marijuana, grass, weed: the dried and crushed leaves and flower buds of cannabis sativa
- Hashish: resin from its flower buds
- Cannabis extracts such as oils and wax
- Edibles such as cannabis-infused candies, cookies or chocolates (edibles will hit the legal Canadian market no later than October 2019)
Wondering who can smoke, vape or nibble, and who can’t? Read on for a refresher on age restrictions across Canada.
MINIMUM AGES BY REGION
Alberta – Minimum Age: 18
British Columbia – Minimum Age: 19
Manitoba – Minimum Age: 19
New Brunswick – Minimum Age: 19
Newfoundland & Labrador – Minimum Age: 19
Northwest Territories – Minimum Age: 19
Nunavut – Minimum Age: 19
Ontario – Minimum Age: 19
Prince Edward Island – Minimum Age: 19
Quebec – Minimum Age: 18
Saskatchewan – Minimum Age: 19
Yukon – Minimum Age: 19
Remember: age restrictions help promote responsible pot use. If someone’s not at or over the legal age to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, they’re not legally old enough to smoke pot.
Want to read more? Check out CBC news’s interactive Cannabis Buying Guide for quick look at minimum ages and other legalities in your part of Canada.
Finally, share your experience with other Carrot users: Do you think minimum age laws will help keep marijuana products away from young people?