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EDITORIAL: More concerns, few answers

Many have noted the federal government’s vision on recreational marijuana regulations remains notably blurry.

With legalization anticipated about a year from now, the questions continue, as do recommendations about where to draw certain lines.

The legal age to possess and partake is right up there among concerns. To that end, the New Brunswick Medical Society has weighed in this week, saying the bar should be set at 21. They add that the legal age for tobacco purchase and consumption should also be 21.

They of course would not be the first medical society to make such a recommendation about cannabis.

The organization cites reasons that have been outlined before, particularly from health professionals. Younger brains are still developing and can be severely affected by marijuana use – or alcohol for that matter.

In fact, the society says for this reason it would rather see sales unavailable to anyone under age 25, but acknowledges that would be unrealistic.

The overall intent of this landmark change in legislation and attitudes remains sound – to regulate sales rather than leave them in the hands of criminals. Some might argue marijuana should not be legalized, but they appear to be in the minority, or else are silent on the subject.

But the health community is appealing for that fine line to be determined in the interests of public safety.

Where age restrictions come in, the federal government had set out a benchmark of 19, adding that provinces would be able to alter that somewhat if they felt the need.

Provincial governments seem to be agreeing with 19 as the logical choice, oddly enough tying it to the legal age to purchase alcohol in most provinces. But that’s an arbitrary age choice – outside the assumption in some circles that liquor stores will be designated as the purveyors of marijuana.

That’s another aspect governments should give more thorough consideration. Is there a good, logical reason, for example, to have sales of one particular drug alongside sales of another? Could we expect liquor store staff to be as knowledgeable about different strains and anticipated psychoactive effects as, for example, pharmacists?

Another interesting recommendation being made by the New Brunswick Medical Society is that provinces not set profit targets for marijuana sales.

That’s more good advice, since the temptation of cash-hungry governments across the country might be to hope for a windfall in marijuana sales.

And if we’ve learned anything in the history of governments and sources of revenue of a ‘recreational’ nature – gambling for example – the profits are always welcome. But the help for problem users or addicts leaves much to be desired.

The clock is ticking toward legalization. There are still plenty of questions regarding control, monitoring and restrictions. It’s time for assurances that we’ll have some answers.

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