More than half of the 50 United States have voted in favor of medical marijuana legalization, and nearly a fifth of all states have legalized the drug for recreational use. Since marijuana policy reform in America seems to be heading one way, it is vital that lawmakers heed the wisdom of researchers when it comes to drafting such policies. It is ever important that quality standards and age restrictions pay mind to experts in the field.
For the most part, those charged with rolling out recreational use in states like Colorado and Washington have deferred to scientists and experts. The fact that one must be 21+ years of age to buy and use the drug was not decided at random, and it was not meant to be an affront to ebullient 18-year-olds itching to exercise their new-found sense of freedom. The age restriction in states with legal “weed” was set in deference to brain science, and the fact that the human brain continues to develop into the mid-20s.
Given there is ample research showing that the marijuana can have a serious impact on cognitive function, affecting memory and intelligence quotient, the further along one goes in life before having tried marijuana — the better. On top of that, studies have also shown that marijuana use, beginning at a young age, can increase one’s risk of abuse and dependence of not only cannabis, but other substances, down the road. While marijuana may register low on the Richter scale of dangerous drugs for adults, there is really no way of predicting what kind of damage it may do to a developing brain.
Cannabis in America, Legalization and Beyond
Last November, you may have been one of the majority of Californians who voted in favor of legalization. Adults over the age of 21 in California can use, possess and even cultivate the plant in their own home. The retail aspect of Proposition 64 isn't expected to take effect until sometime next year, which will give officials time to work out the minutiae.
What’s more, efforts are likely to be underway to ensure that the right messages are being sent to young people about the drug. Specifically, that while cannabis is now legal for people over the age of 21, that doesn't mean that it is safe for everyone to use.
With more states expected to adopt a more lenient position about marijuana, continued research is of the utmost importance. At the end of the day, experts know far less than they don’t know, the byproduct of over 80 years of prohibition hindering effective research on the substance. As our neighbors to the North prepare to announce next month Canada’s plan to legalize marijuana from British Columbia to Newfoundland effective July 1, 2018, age restrictions are a hot button topic, according to a press release from Concordia University. The Canadian Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommends that cannabis use be restricted to those who are at least 18 years in age. While the restriction is 3-years below what U.S. states have set, CBC reports that provinces would be allowed to set a higher age limit.
Research Supports 21
A new study published in the journal Health, examined the results of three national surveys on tobacco, alcohol and drug use (two in Canada and one in America), showed that those who refrain from using marijuana until the age of 21 are unlikely to develop a lifelong habit, the press release reports. Study coauthor James McIntosh, professor of economics in the Faculty of Arts and Science, said that earlier in life one starts using marijuana, the more negative the physical and mental effects will be. McIntosh and his co-author Rawan Hassunah’s study was novel in how closely is examined the age of first marijuana use. They found that early cannabis initiation and use can lead to cognitive impairment, including:
- Memory Loss
- Diminished IQ
- Reduced Educational Success
- Greater Risk of Mental Illness
Despite the findings of the study, McIntosh believes that the pros of legalizing outweigh the cons. He points out that Canada’s move towards legalization puts the country in a distinct position to start seriously researching the effects of the drug on every age group:
We need to start collecting data on it to see what the effects are on people of all ages. You can get all kinds of information on drinking behaviours -- they should do that with marijuana."
The use of cannabis, while considered to be a benign practice by those with a history of addiction or not, can actually wreak havoc on one’s life. As was listed above, the impacts of heavy cannabis use, starting at an early age can make your life unmanageable. Attempts to cease use often results in withdrawal symptoms which are typically mitigated by continued use of the drug. It is not uncommon for marijuana addicts to seek help by way of an addiction treatment center. If you are a young adult, male whose life has been significantly impacted by cannabis use, please contact Pace Recovery Center.