'Keep it out of our schools': Legal age to smoke pot should be 22, school board association says
Expert says setting age limit above 19 won't put a dent in illegal market
The Saskatchewan School Boards Association says only people over the age of 22 should be allowed to buy pot once the drug becomes legal for recreational use in Canada — but one expert says setting a higher age limit won't cut down on illegal use.
Shawn Davidson, the president of the SSBA, says the government should work as hard as it can to keep cannabis out of the hands of students.
"In order to send a message that we don't want our youth consuming cannabis … the age should be set as high as possible," he said.
Saskatchewan's cut-off age for publicly funded high school education is 21. Davidson said setting the age limit at 22 would make pot less likely to enter schools.
"There can be students enrolled in our public school systems up to that age across the province, so as a way to keep it out of our schools that was one of our requests," he said.
While the federal government has said pot will become legal by July 1, Saskatchewan's provincial government has not announced a legal age limit for purchasing or using it.
On Tuesday, a provincial government spokesperson said the age limits will be announced in the spring of 2018.
Expert says age limits won't stop from youth from smoking pot
Earlier this year, Saskatchewan's children's advocate called for the legal age be set at 25 federally, saying pot usage could increase the risk of suicide and depression in youth.
But one expert says while the health concerns around recreational use of marijuana are a serious concern, setting an age limit higher than 19 won't stop young people from buying the drug illegally.
George Hartner, a lecturer at the University of Regina and one of the authors of a lengthy report on marijuana legalisation released last month, says research shows the the main demographic for pot users is young people in their late teens.
"Setting the age limit at 22, if it doesn't have an impact on demand, all it's going to do is push these individuals or force them to continue to purchase in the illicit market," Hartner said.
Legalisation aimed at reducing black market
The federal government has said a main target of the new legal regime should be to take the black market out of the marijuana sales.
Hartner says legal pot is coming and putting tougher age restrictions is not going to stop younger people from purchasing in the illegal market.
"If we set an age limit at 22, individuals who are 19, whether they are in high school or not, are going to continue to get cannabis where they currently get it from — the illicit market," he said.
Davidson says he understands there will be challenges in preventing young people from accessing the drug, but says the age limit would be a first step and would send the proper message to students.
School boards want tough restrictions
The SSBA also wants to see tough restrictions on the illegal cannabis market and legislation, prohibiting cannabis outlets and vendors from operating near schools in hopes of keeping the drug away from youth.
Those suggestions seem to be in line with the guidelines provided earlier this year by the federal government.
The organization thinks cannabis use should be prohibited in public areas and on school board property and family events.
With files from Alex Soloducha