Jenna Valleriani is a PhD candidate in Sociology and the Collaborative Program in Addiction Studies. Her research looks at social movements, entrepeurship and the emergence of new industries. Her dissertation is titled, “ ‘The Green Rush’: Social Movements, Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Medical Cannabis Industry in Canada. Jenna recently published an Op Ed in the Globe and Mail discussing the proposed age restrictions on legal access to marijuana. The piece appeared on Thursday, June 30, 2016 and the complete article is available online . The following is an excerpt of the longer article.
Prohibit marijuana for Canadians under 25? How about a hit of reality
The federal government announced Thursday that it would create a task force to handle marijuana legalization. Led by former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, the task force will feature nine individuals with varying expertise. In the announcement, Health Minister Jane Philpott declared the legalization of cannabis will be “comprehensive and evidence-based”, and yet in the same breath, reminded Canadians “marijuana has negative effects on young brains and brain development in adolescence”.
What Dr. Philpott didn’t acknowledge is that this body of scientific evidence is still being debated in the scientific literature: it’s incomplete and has never actually established that marijuana is the cause in these outcomes of cognitive deficiency. We have also never established what the actual duration of that impairment may be.
Meanwhile, the protecting youth argument has become the cornerstone of what responsible and restrictive legal cannabis access will look like. However, under the guise of trying to protect young people, history illustrates we often end up criminalizing and victimizing them even further. The reiteration of this “concrete evidence” has led some to debate whether cannabis should follow provincial drinking ages, or if access should only be afforded to those who are 25 years of age and older.