NPR reported on a young person, named Yarly Raygoza, who attended a drug prevention program at a California Boys & Girls Club last year, and then used the knowledge she gained to talk a few friends out of using marijuana.
Recreational marijuana is about to be legal for adults in Canada, which will bring a massive boom in sales and marketing when storefronts will begin selling cannabis without a doctor’s recommendation next July.
But it’s bringing a new challenge as well. Some believe that as more adults use marijuana legally, teenagers will have trouble understanding that they shouldn’t use it. Teens may also have permissive access to the drug and could allow children younger than them to have easier access too. Many dispensaries exist across Canada right now, but even those that will close in accordance to new provincial laws regarding the sales and taxing of cannabis, parents may want to start thinking about how they broach the conversation with their young ones.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in Canada and likely other countries in the future creates a hurdle for youth-oriented drug education and prevention programs. That’s the unintended consequence of legalization. Organizations like Drug-Free Kids and Health Canada are trying to explain the risks of marijuana in time for stores to open and marketers to plan campaigns.
Medical cannabis has been legal in the state of California for more than 20 years, but they predict that the move to full legalization prompts youths to believe that the drug is safe. They’ve already made progress toward banning certain child-friendly shaped edibles in anticipation of a more comprehensive non-medical marijuana market opening at the top of 2018.
The topic of legalization alone is prompting questions from young people. That leaves them more open to misinformation than ever. When before, the message was “just say no,” now the message is something more like: “say no until you’re of age.” And even the age limits being determined right now by Canada’s provincial governments don’t meet with what many doctors suggest; that until the brain is finished developing at 25 years old, marijuana use can have adverse effects on cognitive and mental health. Recent studies show that teens who use pot regularly exhibit lower cognitive performance and brain function than those who abstain. They also perform worse in school. But alcohol hasn’t succeeded in fighting off the attention of teens, why would cannabis?
Currently, more than half of 10th- and 12th-graders believe that smoking marijuana isn’t dangerous, according to a recent Rand report. That’s a great thing in one regard; we don’t want to criminalize a plant that has so many uses and benefits. But it also suggests that young people are looking to have open and honest conversations about a substance that will be more prevalent around them than ever.
That’s why several groups feel we need to change the conversation about this drug. And why the ideal discussion is one that remind youths about the drug’s potential harms and that recreational marijuana in Canada is still illegal for those under the age limit.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.