Pubdate: Mon, 15 May 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: John Roe
Page: A12


As the Trudeau government works overtime to legalize recreational
marijuana in Canada by the summer of 2018, there's a huge job to be
done outside Parliament.

Health officials, educators, parents and the government must somehow
persuade young Canadians to swear off a drug that will suddenly be
legal for adults all around them to use for fun and relaxation.

This won't be easy, especially when teens see Mom and Dad light up a
reefer and are told: "Do as we say, not as we do." But the stakes for
our youth couldn't be higher. New research out of the University of
Waterloo highlights both the harm marijuana is doing to the young as
well as the high number of Canadian teens already indulging in the

A UW study that tracked 26,475 Ontario and Alberta high school
students found the ones who smoked weed were often dazed, confused and
more likely to do poorly in school.

By the time the students were smoking marijuana once a month, they
were four times more likely to skip class, two to four times less
likely to complete homework and half as likely to get good grades
compared to before they started using pot.

The study, which has been published in the Journal of School Health,
concluded that smoking pot appears damaging to teens, whose brains are
still developing.

But while the researchers want to discourage young people from smoking
marijuana, other findings from UW experts suggest this will be an
uphill battle when the drug is legal and more visible.

Even before legalization, two per cent of Canadian students in grades
7 to 12 - more than 43,000 young people - are smoking marijuana daily.
Among Grade 12 students, daily use jumps to five per cent.

These findings support earlier research that says Canadian teens are
more than twice as likely as adults to smoke pot and have the highest
rate of cannabis use in the developed world.

The UW research also reiterates the findings of other studies which
conclude young people who smoke marijuana are more prone to learning
problems, overstimulated brains, a permanent reduction in intelligence
and severe mental health problems later in life.

As alarming as it may be, none of this evidence should be seen as an
argument against legalization.

The war on marijuana has been a failure, wasting police and court
resources while criminalizing the use of a drug that, for adults at
least, causes less harm than alcohol.

But young people require special attention and it's telling that one
of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's reasons for legalizing recreational
pot is to do a better job keeping it out of young hands.

Ottawa must make good on this pledge and lead a concerted initiative
to convince youth to delay smoking marijuana or never use it at all.

Smoking up and driving must become as taboo as drinking and

And the scientific evidence for not smoking in your teens or even
early 20s must be conveyed with calm reason.

Honest education, not simplistic fear-mongering, is the best way
forward in our brave new world of legal pot.
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