Pubdate: Sat, 16 Jan 2016
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Prince George Citizen
Author: Aly Thomson
Page: 4


HALIFAX - At a Halifax skate park last summer, Philip Tibbo's 
14-year-old son was told by a group of older teenagers that marijuana 
is natural and no harm would come of using it.

It's one of many myths about cannabis circulating amongst Canadian 
youths today, said Tibbo, a professor at Dalhousie University's 
Department of Psychiatry.

"I asked him if many people were smoking (at the skate park) today. 
And he said, 'Yes, but they're all saying it's harmless. That it 
doesn't do anything to you,'" said Tibbo.

"So I put on my best parental face and prevented myself from pulling 
the car over, pulling out my laptop and doing a presentation on it. 
It's amazing that myth is out there."

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse kicked off a four-city tour in 
Halifax on Friday intended to debunk myths about pot and warning 
about the effects of the drug on young people.

The tour comes a month after the Liberal government's December throne 
speech in which it pledged to "legalize, regulate and restrict access 
to marijuana."

Tibbo, who contributed to a report released in June about cannabis 
use in adolescence, said research indicates the risks are greater for 
teens who use marijuana because their brains are still in development.

"The adolescent brain is going through so many more developmental 
processes and the whole endocannabinoid system is responsible for 
those processes, so then if you get regular cannabis use into that 
system, it can have deleterious effects down the road," said Tibbo at 
a Halifax convention centre.

"We need to get that message out."

Sherry Stewart, a professor at Dalhousie's Department of Psychiatry 
Psychology and Neuroscience, said there are many misconceptions among 
youth about cannabis, including that all teenagers smoke weed.

"In relation to what youth think, that everybody is doing it, the 
statistics clearly show that's not the case," said Stewart, citing 
the 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs survey results for 15- 
to 19-year-olds.

"Around 75 to 80 per cent of youths are not using in the past year. 
So that creates a social norm where youth think that everybody is 
using it, so why wouldn't I do, when it fact, it's not the majority 
that are doing it."

The report from the federally-funded agency said regular cannabis use 
early in life can result in behavioural and cognitive impairments, 
such as poor academic performance and deficits in attention, 
information processing and memory.

However, all the experts noted that more research needs to be done on 
the effects of marijuana on youths and adults to better inform future policies.

Sabina Abidi, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the IWK Health 
Centre in Halifax, said she hears myths about marijuana every day 
working with youths with psychotic disorders and schizophrenia.

"A large number of our populations of kids use cannabis, often in 
harmful ways," said Abidi, who attended the panel discussion.

"Talks like this help with our education. Already we are strategizing 
around how we might be able to implement some of the interventions 
they discussed."

Future panel discussions are scheduled for Feb. 3 in Toronto, Feb. 12 
in Vancouver, and Feb. 22 in Ottawa.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom