Two of the most repeated statements from the government and media regarding Canada’s upcoming legalization of cannabis are “we need to protect the youth” and “cannabis harms the developing brain”.
Unfortunately, these vague and misleading allegations have less to do with fact than with fear mongering.
And let’s be real. If the government truly cared enough to direct their efforts and focus on protecting youth, it would be restricting and limiting access to fast and processed foods, sugar, caffeinated products, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals.
So lets look at the facts, shall we?
Fact: Obesity rates among children / youth has tripled in the last 30 years.
Fact: Food and beverage marketing has big impact kids’ health. Kids between 2-11 view more than 25 million food drink ads on their favorite websites.
Fact: Over 90% of the food ads your children are bombarded with while surfing the internet are for food/drinks filled with sugar, fat and salt.
Fact: The companies marketing these dangerous products have no restrictions on who they can market and sell their products to. Cannabis edibles are considered a ‘no no’ because it may attract kids to eat them, thinking they are sweets. But the sweets they ARE eating have their own dangers – check out the ingredient list in cheerios and gummy bears.
Fact: Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. Enough said
Fact: Consumption of caffeine in high amounts by young adults can lead to restlessness, anxiety, depression, tremors, difficulty sleeping and death. Yet caffeine filled drinks, tablets, pills, powders have no age restrictions, intake limits or warnings on products. No one gets ID’d at Tim Hortons.
Fact: Alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, cancer, and addiction. Cannabis can prevent and alleviate many of these same illnesses. Yet cannabis is illegal while alcohol products don’t even have a childproof cap.
Fact: There is no safe level of exposure to second hand tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke is known to cause cancer. It has more than 7,000 chemicals, including at least 70 that can cause cancer. It is perfectly legal to smoke cigarettes around children.
At the same time, studies have proven that cannabis inhalation does not increase risk of lung cancer or respiratory problems.
You get the point. There are many, many legal substances and products that are harmful to our kids. But isn’t cannabis also harmful to young brains?
Well, no. In fact, labeling cannabis as a “deadly narcotic” is incorrect and irresponsible.
First of all, cannabis poses no risk of the type of fatal respiratory depression that can occur with overdoses of opioids and other nervous system depressants such as alcohol.
Secondly, the tiresome phrase “cannabis harms the developing brain” refers to the THC compound in the cannabis plant. Yes, THC has a psychoactive effect on the brain. But here’s the thing: cannabis can have strains that have little to no THC in them, meaning THESE cannabis strains are adequate for youth consumption.
Which leads us to the cannabinoid CBD – a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned”. Because CBD has no psychoactive affects on the body it is safe to ingest for all ages, and even pets. It can be consumed in many different ways including like tinctures, creams, food (raw smoothies, juices etc.) making it perfectly safe for children and animals.
The simple and obvious answer for government and decision-makers is to limit THC use to adults while allowing children to reap the medical benefits of CBD at the discretion of their parents.
After all, it is a parent or guardian’s responsibility to approve what their children are eating, reading, and watching online and on TV.
It should also be a parent’s right to decide whether their kids can reap the health benefits of cannabis, especially since the many claims of potential harm to the developing brain have been effectively de-bunked.
Ironically, parents and children are more affected by criminalization and incarceration from cannabis then the effects of the medicinal plant itself!
Think about that for a moment: sharing alcohol with children can result in a minor fine. Sharing a joint can land you 14 years in prison, leaving you without a job and your kids without a parent.
So let’s be real.
All these claims about “protecting the youth” are all about supporting the current prohibition on recreational cannabis use by adults.
This fear-mongering not only adds to the stigma and shame that justifies discrimination in the minds of prohibitionists.
It also serves to justify the over-regulation (and possibly crackdowns) on medical dispensaries – the very places people of all ages should be able to easily access safe, effective cannabis products.
If the government truly cared enough to direct their efforts and focus on protecting youth, it would be restricting and limiting access to fast and processed foods, sugar, caffeinated products, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals.
Its main priority wouldn’t be a plant that has a death count of zero.