Canadian researchers say they’ve identified the ideal age to start using cannabis

The team studied 40,000 Canadians aged between 21 and 65 years over the course of a year

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Researchers in Newfoundland set out to determine the age at which people should legally be allowed to begin using cannabis. The age they arrived at?

Drum roll, please…

Nineteen.

Why 19? In a blog entry posted to BioMed Central on May 14, Dr. Hai Nguyen, an associate professor in health policy evaluation at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and PhD student Shweta Mital, explained.

“We reached this conclusion by looking at how Canadians, who started using cannabis at different young ages, differ in several important outcomes (educational attainment, cigarette smoking, self-reported general and mental health) later in life.”

Nguyen, Mital, and their colleagues studied 40,000 Canadians aged between 21 and 65 years over the course of a year. Their results were published in BMC Public Health this week under the title “Too young for Cannabis? Choice of minimum legal age for legalized non-medical Cannabis in Canada”.

“We found that most later life outcomes are better for individuals starting cannabis at age 19 than those starting it at age 18 but not worse than those starting cannabis between age 20 and 25,” Nguyen and Mital wrote. “These results imply that age 19 is the optimal MLA for cannabis use.”

The researchers note that the results of their study differ from the Canadian federal government’s recommendation of 18, and from the medical community’s support for ages between 21 and 25. However, they argue that their conclusion “appears to be plausible: age 19 is high enough to address concerns over potential adverse outcomes associated with using cannabis at young age while low enough to discourage the illegal market for the underage.”

In Canada, the legal minimum age of use varies. It’s 18 in Alberta, 21 in Quebec, and 19 in all other provinces and territories.

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