We’ve all heard about multiple reports and studies telling you that consuming cannabis from a young age is not ideal and can have potential negative health implications. But what is the ideal age to start consuming cannabis?
The Legal Age Debate
Researchers believe that the minimum legal age to buy and consume any form of cannabis should be 19 years old. These findings were made public by researchers at the Memorial University of Newfoundland on the 14th of May.
Lead author, Hai Nguyen, stated that: “What may be surprising is that several later life outcomes (mental health, general health, and cigarette smoking) from starting cannabis use at age 19 are not different than starting at or after age 21,”
Establishing the right age for legal cannabis consumption has become a heavily debated topic since legalization began to spread across the globe. Canada may be the best example as they are the furthest ahead in legalisation – Quebec is the strictest and have set their legal age to 21, while alcohol and cigarettes are limited to 18. Most of the other provinces have set their legal age to 19, but have had many calls to raise it to 21 as well. Alberta is the least stringent with their legal age and have set it to 18.
Reasons for the Study
Since legalisation and decriminalisation began, we have seen inconsistency and ongoing discussion in regards to the legal age of consuming cannabis, which is what prompted these researchers to start looking for answers.
In order to conduct this study, 40 000 Canadians aged between 21 and 65 years were observed over a 12 month period. The research team closely monitored the association between the age of first cannabis consumption in participants, and four later life outcomes: educational attainment, cigarette smoking, self-reported general and mental health. Other factors also examined were the demographic characteristics, cigarette smoking status and use of other tobacco products.
Nguyen also pointed out that “We found different MLAs (minimum legal age) for different outcomes: 21 for educational attainment, 19 for cigarette smoking and mental health and 18 for general health. Assuming equal weight for these individual outcomes, the ‘overall’ MLA for cannabis use was estimated to be 19 years,”
The study noted that when it comes to smoking, participants who first consumed cannabis between 19-20 were less likely to smoke cigarettes later in life than those who first consumed cannabis at 18. The study further noted: “But no significant difference was found in those who started using cannabis at an older age, indicating an optimum legal age of 19,”.
However, they did find a potentially negative yet interesting finding: Those who begin consuming cannabis at younger ages may not obtain a higher level of education. Participants in this study/survey who started consuming cannabis at 19 had less education than those starting at 21 or later. If cannabis is the cause and it isn’t just a coincidence, researchers then suggest that the MLA be 21 years or older.
Nguyen says that “This is consistent with the medical community’s concern that cannabis use negatively affects cognitive development, which in turn might adversely affect education attainment later on.”.
Although this research isn’t applicable to everyone, there is good justification for starting cannabis consumption later in life rather than earlier. Now you know what the ideal age to start consuming cannabis is.