Pubdate: Sun, 16 Apr 2017
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Toronto Star
Author: Nicole Thompson
Page: A3


Teens say coming legalization won't affect their attitude on pot or
how much they use

A 2015 drug and alcohol survey found that Canadian teenagers are
"among the heaviest users in the western world"

Some teens say their likelihood of using weed hasn't changed since the
Liberal government announced details of its legalization plan - though
they say it's made them more aware of information on both sides of the

Government officials announced Thursday that cannabis would be made
legal for recreational use by July 2018, and those 18 and older will
be able to buy and grow a small amount of the drug for themselves.

But even as marijuana becomes more mainstream, several teens said
their opinions about the drug have remained the same.

Julio Gonzales, 19, said he enjoys using marijuana in moderation and
he doesn't expect that to change - even smoking pot feels less
rebellious than it once did.

He said that in school, he was taught that marijuana was

"They kind of classified it with a lot harder drugs like LSD or
cocaine, you know? So there was always that kind of 'villainy' look at
it. It being really bad for you," he said.

He expects that the curriculum might change a bit, but said he thinks
teachers will still advise against teens using the drug.

He said he knows there have been studies that suggest marijuana use in
teenagers can be harmful, so he's in favour of legislation that
restricts minors from smoking.

"I guess it's also kind of hypocritical of me," he said, adding that
he smokes because he finds it helps him concentrate on school work.

Ellie Labbancz, who will be 14 next month, said the news of
legalization hasn't changed her thoughts about pot either - she is
still staunchly against it.

She said she understands some of the positive arguments for access to
marijuana, including that it could reduce drug trafficking and crime.

But overall, she said people could still abuse the drug - and that
doesn't sit right with her. She's worried about the negative health
effects, especially on young people's brains.

Canadian Psychiatric Association president Dr. Renuka Prasad said in a
statement put out on Thursday that early and regular cannabis use can
affect memory, attention, intelligence and the ability to process thoughts.

He said it can also add to the risk of mental-health issues among
people who are already vulnerable.

The CPA position statement on marijuana cites studies that suggest
marijuana can interfere with the maturing process the brain goes
through in adolescence. It recommended an age limit of 21, as well as
quantity and potency limits for those under 25.

Todd Goncalvez,18, said his opinion hasn't changed in light of the
legalization promise, and it's not likely to change opinions - or
frequency of use - among his peers.

"I don't see how legalizing weed will make much of a difference in
terms of limiting access to those under the legal age, since it's
already so widely available to kids as young as Grade 8 or 9," he said.

"Just like alcohol and cigarettes are legal and considered mainstream,
weed will still be considered a 'cool' thing to do."

During the legislation announcement on Thursday, Public Safety
Minister Ralph Goodale noted that Canadian teenagers are "among the
heaviest users in the western world."

The Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs survey in 2015 - the most
recently available data from Statistics Canada - suggests that 20.6
per cent of Canadians between ages 15 and 19 had used marijuana in the
past year.

Nearly 29 per cent of people in that age group had tried it at some
point in their life.
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