A woman speaking at a public hearing in Moncton on the legalization of marijuana said her son's schizophrenia was triggered by the drug.

The select committee of eight MLAs is touring New Brunswick communities to hear the public's opinion and concerns before recreational cannabis becomes legalized next year.

On Wednesday, Charlotte LeBlanc told the committee how marijuana changed her son's life.

"I'm a parent with a son who lives with schizophrenia, his psychoses were triggered by cannabis," the retired nutritionist said.

Mental health concerns

LeBlanc said she's been an advocate for mental health for almost two decades.

She said her son started smoking marijuana when he was around 14 years old.

Four years later, he was addicted, and by the time he was 23, he suffered from psychosis, she said.

'Marijuana effects can last a long time, even a lifetime, and it did with my son.' - Charlotte LeBlanc, mental health advocate

"We thought it was a natural teenager thing just for him to smoke marijuana," she said.

"Marijuana effects can last a long time, even a lifetime, and it did with my son."

LeBlanc said she's not opposed to legalization but wants the province to keep the drug away from young people.

She said the addiction not only affected her son's mental well-being but also his education in electronic engineering.

"I cringe at the thought of legalizing marijuana for young adults ages 18 to 21," she said.

"Knowing this is the most critical age for vulnerable young people who are prone to develop illness due to many factors including genetics."

First to make the case

Benoit Bourque, MLA for Kent County and committee chair, said LeBlanc was the first person at the meetings to make a specific case about the drug's impact on mental health.

"I was definitely compelled because my mother is a retired nurse consultant on mental health … it did resonate and I think it is important," he said.

Benoit Bourque

Benoit Bourque, MLA for Kent County and committee chair, says LeBlanc was the first person at the meetings to make a specific case about the drug’s impact on mental health. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

"We are definitely considering every aspect of the legalization of marijuana and all other related fields, including mental health, to make sure that New Brunswickers are healthy, both physically and mentally."

Bourque wouldn't speculate on how the province will keep marijuana away from young people but said "there are experts in government that are seriously looking into this right now."

The province's doctors suggested 21 years as the legal age to buy marijuana, but a working group of officials recommended 18 years.

Evidence of dangers

Earlier this year, psychiatrist Dr. Linda Hoyt told CBC News there is evidence that regular marijuana use is dangerous and can have long-term effects on a young person's brain.

Dr. Linda Hoyt

Dr. Linda Hoyt, a member of the New Brunswick Medical Society, wants to see the province set a higher age limit than 18 years for recreational marijuana use. (CBC)

Hoyt was concerned that there will be an increase in people seeking help for mental health issues after marijuana is legalized. She said the drug can lead to psychiatric conditions like psychosis and bipolar disorder.

"We've [seen] a bulge in patients with the use of medical marijuana that's been increasing in frequency in our area," she said.

She wants to see the province set a higher age limit for recreational marijuana use.

The next public consultations this week are in Miramichi and Fredericton.

With files from Gail Harding