Canada weighs risks and benefits of setting 18 as minimum age for weed use

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The legislation introduced last month would make Canada the second country to have nationwide legalization, after Uruguay, which also set the minimum age at 18. The Canadian legislation would give each of the 10 provinces power to set the minimum age, with at least Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba likely to choose the younger option of 18 to match the drinking age. The drinking age is 19 in the other provinces. Anyone caught selling or providing pot to someone under the age of 18 could face up to 14 years in prison. Granger Avery, president of Canadian Medical Association, which proposed setting the age at 21 only after it became clear that the government wanted it at 18.

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TORONTO — The most controversial thing about Canada’s move to legalize marijuana nationwide may be setting the minimum age for use at 18 — three years lower than in U.S. states that have embraced legalization — a move that is being closely watched across the continent.

Advocates for the measure, expected to pass Parliament next year, say putting the limit at 21 would encourage a black market and drive youths into the hands of criminals.

“Taking this business away from them I think is an obligation,” said former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, parliamentary secretary to Canada’s justice minister and the man in charge of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to legalize.

The task force that drafted the measure reported that experts said “that setting the minimum age too high risked preserving the illicit market, particularly since the highest rates of use are in the 18 to 24 age range.”

But health experts are worried that the provision will...

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