A prominent Winnipeg doctor says setting Manitoba’s legal age to buy and use pot at 19 “sends the wrong message” that cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol.

Dr. Joel Kettner said he worries the perception will be that alcohol is less problematic, since the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol is 18 in the province.

“One of the messages that I would be concerned about sending out to our youth, to our young adults, to our public, is that marijuana is more of a concern than alcohol,” said Kettner, a professor at the University of Manitoba’s medical college and the former chief provincial public health officer.

“Setting the age for marijuana [at 19] while keeping alcohol purchases legal at 18, I think, sends the wrong message when we compare the dangers of these products.”

The Progressive Conservative provincial government tabled legislation Tuesday outlining the rules around the upcoming sale and regulation of marijuana, which the federal government plans to legalize by July of 2018. The provincial rules include a ban on growing pot plants in the home for recreational use and setting the legal age at 19 to buy and use marijuana in the province.

Several provinces have indicated they will tie the legal age of purchasing pot to the legal age of purchasing alcohol, including Ontario — which has a legal age of 19 — and Alberta, where the legal age to buy controlled substances is 18.

Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said Tuesday the Manitoba government took a “balanced approach … a responsible approach” in picking 19 as the age at which Manitobans will be allowed to buy cannabis.

She said the age provides both health protection and helps keep the marijuana trade out of the hands of gangs.

“Young people live in homes and we want to make sure it is out of their hands,” Stefanson said.

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