On October 17, 2018, the Canadian government legalized cannabis. So some parents might be asking, how should I talk with my children about these changes?
It should be noted that cannabis, like alcohol, is not accessible everywhere. In Ontario you must be a minimum of 19 years of age to purchase it. It is not allowed in schools, hospitals, or any of the same spaces where smoking cigarettes is banned. Visit the official Government of Ontario Cannabis Legalization page for the new rules for cannabis. The site states that a person is legally permitted to possess only one ounce of dried cannabis at any time. The site also has some useful information on medical cannabis, rules for the workplace, and rules about growing cannabis in a private residence. You may also want to review your municipality’s bylaws. For example, the City of Markham’s new bylaw bans cannabis smoking in all public areas.
Of course children younger than 19 will be curious about cannabis, or may find a way to access it. So it’s a good idea to talk to your children about cannabis. An article by Dr. Karen Leslie: Doctors’ Notes: How to talk to your kids about marijuana notes that simply taking a “no-tolerance approach” won’t really prevent children from seeking cannabis if they really want to, but it does mean that they are less likely to be informed about cannabis, or asking for guidance in the future. Instead, Dr. Leslie recommends that it is best is to talk about cannabis with the dual message: “Ideally don’t do it but if you do, this is how to be safer.”
It might be useful to clear up misconceptions your children may have about the effects of cannabis. Make sure they know that cannabis does slow reflexes and reaction times, and as with alcohol consumption, driving impaired by cannabis is dangerous and illegal.
People often hear that cannabis has no repercussions to one’s health. It is good to be aware that cannabis does interfere with brain development, which continues until the age of 25 so you may even want to have a conversation with your children over 19. Cannabis can have negative effects on those in danger of developing mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Anxiety and depression can both worsen with cannabis use. Finally, any form of smoking can cause cancer. If someone is smoking cannabis, just like smoking cigarettes, it can be harmful to overall health.
If you believe your child has been using cannabis, try not to panic. Begin a conversation without judgment or causing your child to fear being punished. A recommended approach is to convey factual information to help children understand the risks and effects of cannabis use. The goal is to make your child feel safe, promote healthy lifestyle choices, and avoid demonizing or glorifying substance use.
Taking the initiative to communicate with your children about cannabis will promote an open exchange on a current topic being discussed in the media and likely among peers.
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