Skip to main content

Part of cannabis and your kids

As Canada moves toward the legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use later this year, polling shows that more Canadians support the legalization than oppose it – and strong opinions on the issue are correlated with experience using cannabis. Support for legalization is near ubiquitous among regular cannabis users, whereas opposition is highest among those who have never used.

In advance of legalization, we asked a sample of Canadian parents how they are feeling about this policy change. Six in 10 parents report feeling concerned. The three specific worries most often cited are fear that legalization will make it easy for kids to access cannabis at a young age, concerns about the impact of use on young peoples’ health and development, and concerns about legalization leading to addiction and drug abuse.

In view of these worries, it makes sense that Canadian parents feel it’s important to have information on a range of topics related to cannabis and young people, including research on whether cannabis use is a gateway to “harder” drugs. They also want to know more about the comparative effects of different forms of cannabis (for example, edibles compared with combusted product), as well as research on the likelihood of cannabis use leading to tobacco smoking.

Story continues below advertisement

When asked about cannabis education for young people, parents prioritize teaching about the importance of not driving under the influence. They also want young people to be aware of the negative effects of cannabis use on growing bodies, the risks of combining cannabis with other substances and how to turn down offers to use cannabis.

This research highlights the legitimate concerns parents have about cannabis legalization and the need for information and education to address those concerns. Our findings also reveal a need for enhanced public information and discussion about the policy objectives of legalization and how the government intends to achieve them.

One of the main objectives of legalizing cannabis is to protect children and youth by shrinking the black market, by definition unregulated and without age requirements, and simultaneously limiting their access to the legal cannabis market. Retailing of legal cannabis will be undertaken with controls similar to those currently in place for alcohol, and the marketing of cannabis products is set to be tightly controlled, particularly when it comes to branding or packaging that might entice young people.

Parental opposition to cannabis legalization based on concerns about easier youth access suggests a need for stronger government communications around the objectives and parameters of legalization, and how the retailing of legal cannabis will be controlled.

The fact that parents have concerns, however, is not surprising. The legalization of cannabis represents a seismic shift in our collective thinking. Given how deeply ingrained the stigma against cannabis is in many quarters, it may take a generation or more until the product and its use are normalized. The introduction of legalized recreational cannabis is a long-term initiative that will require patient and purposeful collaboration among the private and public players involved. These most recent polling results only underscore there is much work yet to be done.

While parents’ fears aren’t surprising, they do raise the question of how well private industry and the government are working together to provide the information Canadians are looking for. A tremendous amount of valuable information about cannabis and its use is available from a range of sources, including private firms, all levels of government and postsecondary institutions that are beginning to see cannabis education as a viable business opportunity.

As the effects of this policy change roll out, it will be critical for both the cannabis industry and governments to step up their efforts to provide practical information to the public, including parents and young people, and to foster an informed public dialogue about cannabis legalization and how it’s meant to work. Only then can parents and institutions work together effectively to protect the health and well-being of young people.

Story continues below advertisement

Ray Gracewood is chief commercial officer at Organigram and Tony Coulson is group VP, corporate and public affairs at Environics Research.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter