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Here’s How Old You Should Be Before Trying Cannabis, according to Consumers

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It’s one of the biggest questions about cannabis legalization: at what age should people try cannabis for the first time?

We teamed up with PSB Research and Burson Cohn & Wolf to put that tricky question to 1,000 Americans and over 600 Canadians in the 2019 Cannabis Culture Poll.

The biggest percentage of respondents — 39 percent of Americans and 32 percent of Canadians — thought that 18 was an ideal age to begin consuming. Meanwhile, 10 percent of Americans and 13 percent of Canadians thought that if you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to smoke, saying 16 is the ideal age.

Oddly enough, 1 percent of American consumers said that people should start at age zero. Go figure.

The largest differences between the US and Canada can be attributed to alcohol laws in the two countries: 1 percent of Americans and 13 percent of Canadians said that 19 was the best age at which to try cannabis — probably because that’s the legal drinking age in most parts of Canada. Meanwhile, 24 percent of Americans and a mere 14 percent of Canadians said that 21 — the American drinking age — was the best time to start.

But do these responses reflect how respondents dealt with cannabis when they were growing up? Not quite. When we asked when people actually started consuming cannabis, only 12 percent of Americans and 10 percent of Canadians started when they were 18 and only 5 percent of Americans and 4 percent of Canadians held off until they were 21. Meanwhile, half of American and Canadian consumers (50 percent and 56 percent, respectively) actually tried cannabis when they were between the ages of 12 – 17.

A case of do as I say, not as I do,” perhaps?

So what do the experts say about all this? The official site for Canada’s federal government advises that the brain doesn’t stop developing until age 25, implying that’s the best time to start. But only 3 percent of Americans and 5 percent of Canadians agree. 

The Cannabis Culture Poll is an annual study commissioned by Civilized in partnership with PSB Research and Burson Cohn & Wolfe. In March 2019, the poll surveyed 1,602 adults from coast-to-coast in the U.S. and Canada. The research groups, consisting of both cannabis consumers and non-users, were asked a variety of questions about their views about cannabis as well behaviors, habits, and personal experiences.

Banner Image: Kristina Lindberg / Shutterstock

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