Nova Scotia

Legal age for smoking pot a divisive issue for some people

A federal government task force on the legalization of marijuana says sales should be restricted to those 18 and older, with a personal possession limit of 30 grams.

'18 is a little young, 19 not so bad. After they are out of high school let them do what they want'

A federal task force says it's time to legalize marijuana and make it available in stores. (CBC News )

The dividing issue for some people when it comes to the legalization of marijuana is how young is too young to be allowed to smoke it.

A task force appointed by the Canadian government to study the legalization of marijuana determined Tuesday that sales should be restricted to those 18 and older, with a personal possession limit of 30 grams.

CBC News spoke with a number of Haligonians to get their thoughts on the new recommendations. 

"I used to work with high-risk kids in group homes and I've seen the psychosis brought on by marijuana," said Margo Salmon. "I think there needs to be more education around it, I think that's a little bit young."

The Canadian Medical Association had recommended setting the age at 21, with strict limits on quantity and potency for people younger than 25.

But the task force said higher age limits would simply drive young consumers into the hands of the black market, something the government hopes to actively discourage with its push to legalize pot.

"I think legalization and decriminalizing it is a good thing, I think it's going in the right direction," Nathan Lenethen said outside the Halifax ferry terminal Wednesday.

"But 18 is a little young. Nineteen is not so bad; after they are out of high school let them do what they want."

Nathan Lenethen (CBC)

The report said provinces and territories should, however, be provided with the flexibility to set their own age restrictions on purchasing the drug. The nine U.S. jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana sales have matched the age limit to the drinking age of 21.

"Overall I'd say it's a step in the right direction and a modern drug policy for Canada, but I think the 30-gram limit might not be sensible," said Greg Dunn. "We don't have limits on other consumable items like this, such as tobacco or alcohol, so we might find that part of the legislation changes."

Legislation only the beginning

The government has promised to table legislation in spring 2017, but it's anticipated much more time will be needed for the bill to be studied and eventually passed into law.

The task force has stated the timing for legalization is the government's prerogative.

"It's a good first step and it will be interesting to see how the politicians take hold of that kind of discussion to see how it ends up," said Roger Sloan. "I think it's time, it's going to be one of those things that over time is going to be ingrained into our culture."

Roger Sloan. (CBC)

The report recommends Ottawa impose many of the same restrictions to cannabis that currently apply to alcohol and tobacco sales, namely limits on advertising, to discourage use by young people.

"It's something that's widely available now so to have something that's more controlled I think will be much better," said Terra Arthur. "I think it will be a great way to raise some more revenue."

The task force did not recommend a set price for cannabis, but suggested higher taxes on cannabis with elevated levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, to discourage use.

The report stated cannabis should be sold in storefront locations in plain packaging, as the Liberal government has promised to do with tobacco.