Health & Medicine Kids Legalization News

What does legalizing cannabis mean for children?

 Just about everyone agrees minors should not use cannabis. Illustration: George Wylesol/The Guardian

ALos Angeles doctor’s license is reportedly at risk after he told a father give his four-year-old a cannabis-infused cookie to control his temper tantrums. The incident, which emerged last month, captures the concerns of legalization opponents who fear easier access will lead to increased use among children, in this case facilitated by what the California medical board called “grossly negligent” doctoring.

Just about everyone agrees minors shouldn’t use cannabis. But what does changing policy mean for children’s use of the drug?

Legalization opponents don’t want to normalize the drug in children’s eyes, while supporters say the best way to keep weed away from kids is to sell it in stores where only adults can shop. After all, illegal dealers don’t ask for ID.

The argument was central to the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s successful push to legalize the drug last year. (Most of the US data I’ve seen shows that legalization has led to increased use by adults, but not by minors.)

When new markets write their laws, children remain a central concern. Proposals about how far dispensaries need to be from schools and whether companies can make edibles in animal shapes are nightly news staples. Cannabis companies have generally been accommodating, eager to avoid any perception that they are targeting underage customers.

With cannabis, the instinct to protect young people is amplified by the scientific literature. The data shows marijuana poses the greatest danger to people under 25, whose brains are still developing. In the significant US markets, the current buying age is 21, compared with 18 or 19 in Canadian provinces.

From a public health perspective, it might be smart to experiment with a buying age of 25.
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 From a public health perspective, it might be smart to experiment with a buying age of 25 – but that would affect the core demographic of users. Illustration: George Wylesol/The Guardian

From a public health perspective, then, it might be smart to experiment with a buying age of 25, though this would cut into the industry’s core demographic. If, say, New York state, which is expected to debate legalization this year, proposed a buying age of 25, the industry would almost certainly counter that raising the legal age would prop up the illegal market, which sells to everyone.

While keeping pot away from kids is a widely shared priority, stories in which children benefit from medical marijuana have helped the legalization movement spread its message.

The 2013 CNN  documentary Weed featured the story of Charlotte Figi, a little girl who suffered from a debilitating childhood seizure disorder. After Charlotte’s parents exhausted their other options, they connected with the Stanley brothers, a Colorado family of marijuana growers.

Charlotte began taking oil from a strain of cannabis low in intoxicating THC but high in CBD, and her condition dramatically improved. The strain she took became known as Charlotte’s Web.

The documentary inspired a number of similarly afflicted families to uproot their lives and move to Colorado where they could access the medicine. For the families who didn’t move, smuggling networks arose to disperse the oil.

Last year, a pharmaceutical form of CBD called Epidiolex, produced by the UK company GW Pharmaceuticals, won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for patients like Charlotte, making it easier and safer to access the medicine.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Alex Halperin on The Guardian

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Published: February 11, 2019

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