The Impact of Cannabis Legalization

BY KYLEEN GRAY

The legalization of cannabis is a major cultural shift in our country — especially since (ahem) until now we’ve been telling kids that drugs are bad.

Significant education is required to support our youth and their families in understanding how this change will impact their lives, those of their families, and society at large.

In Ontario, the Cannabis Act states that users, age 19 or older, can smoke cannabis wherever people can currently smoke cigarettes, which is 20 meters from children’s parks or schools — a very short distance. Currently in Ontario, cannabis edibles are still illegal, however, they too will enter the market in the next year or so.

With this loose legislation in place, kids will begin seeing cannabis ingestion both at home and in public. Who knows, maybe even outside their school if a parent decides to walk to collect their kids smoking cannabis and stays the required distance from the school.

How can educators and parents deal with this reality in a sensible and responsible way?

Talk to your students/kids about cannabis in an open and responsible manner. They most likely have questions about why the drug was legalized as well as what the potential benefits to users could be. If you aren’t familiar with cannabis, look to the government of Ontario’s website to help with answering questions.

For older students/kids, offer them newspaper or online articles to read about the legalization of cannabis in Canada and use the readings as a starting point for conversation or debate.

Explain to students/kids what cannabis looks like — especially edible cannabis — even if it is not legal just yet. In US states where cannabis is legal, there have been many published incidences of kids mistaking cannabis edibles for candy and ingesting them or bringing them to school to share with friends resulting in poisoning and hospital visits.

Discuss the use of cannabis as a recreational or medicinal drug with students and kids, but also share the medical dangers it holds for youth. Although it is legalized, that doesn’t mean it is beneficial for young people while their brains are still growing and developing.

Whether or not you agree with the legalization of cannabis in Canada, it seems that it’s here to stay. Instead of ignoring this cultural shift, take the opportunity to educate and talk to your students or kids about this important topic.