Clearing the Air about Cannabis: Back to School |

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Clearing the Air about Cannabis: Back to School

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 10:16

Welcome to the Back to School issue of Ophea’s Clearing the Air on Cannabis Q&A Column! The continuation of this series will help you have access to timely information regarding cannabis this school year. A new column will be posted each month and distributed through the Ophea eConnection newsletter. Visit Ophea’s Clearing the Air About Cannabis Q&A Form to submit your questions and for more details on the Q&A column.

As we approach the end of the first year of cannabis legalization, this month’s column will provide an update on the rules and regulations for non-medical cannabis in Ontario.

Clearing the Air on the Current Cannabis Legal Landscape

For our back to school column we wanted to revisit the current legal landscape for cannabis. It’s important that educators and school staff are aware of current regulations to be able to answer any questions students may have on cannabis. Read on to find out the current restrictions for youth, regulations intended to discourage youth from using cannabis, and the new upcoming edibles regulations.

Though cannabis has been legalized for adults over 19, the Ontario government has rules in place to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth. To help discourage youth from using cannabis, the Cannabis Act prohibits

  • products or packaging that are appealing to youth
  • cannabis promotions where they could be seen by young people
  • sales through vending machines

In addition, cannabis cannot be vaped or smoked within 20 meters of places where children or youth gather, such as school grounds, playgrounds, or publicly owned spaces, such as playgrounds, libraries and sports fields.  Cannabis cannot be smoked or vaped in places where smoking tobacco or using e-cigarettes is prohibited. 

Cannabis Use

When talking with students about cannabis use it may be useful to know the most current statistics related to youth and the law. According to the 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), 19% of students in grades 7-12 reported using cannabis in the past year. It’s illegal for youth under 19 to possess, consume or cultivate cannabis and 1% of high school students, or approximately 6,900 students, reported being arrested or warned by police for using cannabis. Youth who possess, consume or cultivate can receive a fine for up to $200. Any violations by youth fall under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and for youth who come in conflict with the law, there is a new Cannabis Diversion Program. Youth can be referred to the new diversion program instead of receiving judicial sanctions or fines.

According to the OSDUHS, the majority of youth who consumed cannabis in 2017 obtained it from friends. It’s illegal for anyone to sell or provide cannabis to minors; there are penalties including fines and jail time for up to 14 years for adults who give or sell cannabis to youth, or who are using a youth to commit a cannabis related offence.  

Cannabis Use and Driving

Talking to youth about cannabis use and driving will support them in making informed decisions when driving or as a passenger in a car. Driving under the influence of cannabis, or any other substance, is illegal. For youth under 21 there is a zero tolerance for cannabis, meaning that youth are not allowed to have any cannabis in their system if they are driving. According to the OSDUHS, 9% of Ontario youth who have a license, or an estimated 24,100 youth, reported having driven within one hour of using cannabis. Cannabis use can increase the risk of driving collisions. Cannabis can affect a wide range of skills needed for driving, such as:

  • short-term memory
  • decision-making
  • motor coordination
  • concentration

Studies that have looked at driving after cannabis use have found increased weaving within traffic lanes, and driving more slowly. Youth need to receive information on the risks associated with cannabis use and driving, as well as other substances such as alcohol. To learn more about youth and driving under the influence of cannabis, checkout our previous Q&A Column #4: Clearing the Air about Cannabis: Youth & Driving.

Cannabis Edibles

Cannabis edibles will become legalized for adults in October 2019, and will start becoming available in December 2019. Edibles can come in many forms such as drinks, chocolate bars, brownies or gummy bears, though it is currently unknown what products will be sold in Ontario. The proposed regulations stipulate the new products must not be appealing to youth, and must be sold in child-resistant and plain packaging to discourage youth from using them.  Edibles that come in the form of food or candy may be attractive to children and youth, and could lead to unintentional consumption if not stored safely. The effects of edibles last longer than from smoking cannabis. The effects may begin between 30 minutes and two hours after ingestion, and lead to powerful, full-body effects that can last 12 hours with residual effects lasting 24 hours.  The delayed effect can cause a person to consume larger amounts than they intended in a short amount of time. Students need to be aware of the possible effects of cannabis when ingested through edibles and the health implications in order to make safe, informed decisions.

When speaking about cannabis, teachers should be aware that there may be students in their classes that have been prescribed cannabis for medical purposes. Although, the rules for medical cannabis are different from non-medical cannabis, and are not covered in this column, 7% of high school students reported using cannabis for medical purposes, such as nausea or pain; it’s unclear how many of these situations involve a cannabis prescription from a doctor.

Visit Ophea’s Clearing the Air About Cannabis Q&A Form to submit your questions for next month’s Q&A column. For access to a database of resources visit Cannabis Education Resources and follow #WeedEducationWednesday where a different cannabis resource is featured each week.

Available now to support cannabis education in schools are Ophea’s new Cannabis Education: Activate the Discussion guides for both elementary and secondary educators.  The guides look to help spark conversation within the school community about non-medical and medical cannabis, address questions and concerns, and foster a whole-school approach when dealing with situations involving cannabis.

You can also sign up for Ophea’s e-newsletter eConnection to read the next month’s Q&A column and to stay up-to-date with the latest issues, events, and resources!

Thank you!
Ophea and the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH