Marijuana use is undergoing great changes in Canada these days. More people are accessing it for therapeutic reasons for a wide variety of conditions, and it is regulated and distributed for these purposes.Listen
The Liberal government was elected in 2015 on a platform that included the promise to legalize marijuana. Last week it was announced that by July 1st, 2018, marijuana would be available for recreational use.
“The number of people who smoke marijuana before the age of 15 or as teenagers is about three times as high as the number of people who smoke cigarettes”
“We wanted to look at the effects of marijuana use on health” he explained, in aniticipation of the changes coming to the law.
“Economists are interested in social welfare and health economics is a major area of economics and people’s consumption of marijuana is going to affect their welfare.”
Using publicly available sources in Canada and the United States McIntosh found that “early smoking does permanent damage to you”
The physical effects of early use can include respiratory difficulties, and “early users are likely to suffer from memory loss, cognitive function impairment, lower IQ, and poorer success rates in the educational system.” McIntosh said.
The study demonstrates that those who wait until 21 will not suffer these negative effects and are not inclined to develop a habit.
When compared with alcohol use, McIntosh says, “alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are three very different substances”
“The social costs of illegal drugs is enormous”
He says, “drinking alcohol as a teenager doesn’t seem to have that much of an effect on people”. He does, however, acknowledge that there are those teenagers who can’t handle it and do become addicted.
“Alcohol is in fact a very dangerous substance for a lot of people but generally speaking, I think the medical profession and the research community has come to appreciate the benefits of alcohol in terms of reduced likelihoods of diabetes or heart disease or some of the other diseases.”
McIntosh advises educational programs for the young to inform them of the consequences of beginning to smoke marijuana too early. He has witnessed the success of the anti-tobacco campaigns that have become the norm in elementary and high schools in Canada, with his own daughter advising him of the dangers of tobacco and counselling him not to start to smoke.
“The social costs of illegal drugs is enormous”, he says which is why, despite the dangers to the very young, McIntosh favours the coming legalization of marijuana.
“We have low quality product on the market, people who use it don’t know what they’re getting, the disaster concerning fentanyl is another illustration of the failure of government policy to deal with illicit drugs, when they’re illegal they can’t be controlled they can’t be taxed, people who have no business being in the drug business are active, biker gangs the mafia we want to take over those players in the market and have the government do that.”