I grew up in Alberta, and my 18th birthday was a distinct marker in my life: finally, I could buy a pack of cigarettes and a case of beer without pestering someone of age to “boot” for me.
Purchasing tobacco and alcohol on my birthday was part of a larger checklist of legal villainous objectives. Now I’m 29 and have read the government’s discussion paper on the legalization, restriction, and access to marijuana. I considered my own history with substances and the current deliberations. The problem I realized when I read the paper on marijuana is that a lot of the considerations are hinged to the existing laws and practices of the sale of alcohol and tobacco.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) responded to the pending legalization, restriction, and access to marijuana. Their suggestions recommend that marijuana cannot be legally purchased and consumed until age 21 with restrictions on the quantity and potency of the narcotic until age 25. It’s a good decision — the age to purchase and consume marijuana to be higher than the restrictions already in place for sale and consumption of alcohol and tobacco.
I don’t want any of Canada’s fresh batch of 18 or 19-year-olds to arrive at that age where he or she can legally toke, smoke, and drink all on the same day for the first time. Marijuana is a different monster than alcohol and tobacco. A bowl, a drag, or a shot each alter the mind in different ways from another. Any Canadian teen can ignore the studies, the documents, and the realities that law enforcement officers, political leaders, and medical doctors lay before us. Setting the legal age for the purchase and consumption of marijuana to a higher age than the purchase of alcohol and tobacco will provoke Canada’s youth to consider why smoking and drinking is unlike hits from the bong.
It’s too late for alcohol and tobacco: the two can quite literally go hand in hand. And my own history has forever united the use of both of those substances into a single action. Marijuana can still be distinguished from alcohol and tobacco by setting the legal age to purchase and consume marijuana to something different.
But another question arises: should the legal age to buy and consume marijuana be the same or different between the provinces? The Alberta government (if provided with the opportunity) could set the age to be anything higher than 18 and please me. I don’t hold many reservations for what the age should be in Ontario or Saskatchewan; however, it better be set to something higher than the ages required to buy whiskey and cigars in those provinces.
I wasn’t reading medical studies, discussion papers, or even a newspaper when I was 18. At that age, I kept my identification in the most convenient slot in my wallet and tried to say out the overdraft when I rabble-roused on the weekends. My 18th birthday conjoined two sinful habits and in hindsight (bias included), I would have rolled up marijuana as well to create a trifecta of intoxicates and madness — providing it was all legal for me to do so on the same day.