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Cannabis and Young People

Young people are particularly vulnerable to risks associated with cannabis. Regular and early use of cannabis in adolescence can cause harm to the developing brain and is linked with behavioural and mental health issues. If youth are wishing to use cannabis, they can reduce their long-term risks by waiting as long as possible before beginning use, ideally until their brain is fully developed around age 25.

Cannabis impaired driving is another risk for young people, who are often novice drivers. Youth perceive cannabis as less harmful when comparing it to alcohol and more young people report driving after using cannabis than alcohol. According to the 2012 Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, 5% of Canadian youth aged 15–24 reported driving after using marijuana during the past year, compared to 9.4% after consuming alcohol. Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol remains an important factor contributing to serious road crashes in Canada.

Youth in Northwestern Ontario are able to access cannabis.  In the 2016-2017 school year, students in grades 9-12 in Northwestern Ontario reported the following related to their cannabis use through the COMPASS study:

  • 9% of students report using cannabis daily 
  • 25% of students reported using cannabis in the past month
  • 42% of students in grades 9-12 have tried cannabis
  • 62% of students think it would be easy for them to get cannabis
The reasons why young people use or do not use cannabis is multifaceted. Some reasons why young people choose to use cannabis include:

  • Pleasure, they enjoy using it
  • Experimentation, they are curious about it
  • Conformity, they want to fit in and think their peers are using it
  • Coping, they think it helps them deal with stress
  • Medicinal use, they self-medicate using it
If you are a parent, guardian or trusted adult, talk to your young person about cannabis use. Here are some resources to get started.

More information for parents, guardians and trusted adults: