Cannabis legalization in the provinces and territories: missing opportunities to effectively educate youth?

  • Tara Marie WatsonEmail author
  • Jenna Valleriani
  • Elaine Hyshka
  • Sergio RuedaEmail author


Cannabis is now legal in Canada, yet important questions remain regarding how the provinces and territories are approaching cannabis education and messaging aimed at youth. Although widespread education and awareness campaigns are long considered cornerstones of substance use and related harm prevention, there is limited evidence to support the effectiveness of such campaigns. We continue to see examples of cannabis-related messaging that focus on risk and harm and often adopt a narrow view of the ways in which young people may use cannabis. This traditional risk-based messaging does not resonate with how many youth experience cannabis use. We have further observed that most provinces and territories have yet to fully reveal concrete details regarding what they are and have been planning in terms of youth engagement in the development and delivery of educational initiatives. As Canadian youth desire reliable, evidence-based educational material on cannabis, and can be credible key partners in the development of such materials, we hope that all levels of government will see the value of promoting balanced cannabis discussions and co-designing resources with youth.


Cannabis Youth Legalization Education Public campaigns 


Le cannabis est maintenant légal au Canada, mais d’importantes questions subsistent quant à la façon dont les provinces et les territoires abordent la sensibilisation au cannabis et les messages adressés aux jeunes. Les vastes campagnes de sensibilisation et d’information sont depuis longtemps considérées comme les fondements de la prévention des méfaits associés à la consommation de substances, mais les preuves de l’efficacité de ces campagnes sont limitées. Nous continuons de trouver des exemples de messages sur le cannabis qui mettent l’accent sur le risque et les méfaits et qui adoptent souvent une vision étroite de la consommation du cannabis par les jeunes. Les messages classiques, axés sur le risque, ne collent pas à l’expérience de consommation de cannabis de nombreux jeunes. Nous observons aussi que les provinces et les territoires n’ont pour la plupart pas encore dévoilé dans le détail ce qu’ils ont planifié (ou sont en train de planifier) pour favoriser la participation des jeunes à l’élaboration et à la diffusion des initiatives de sensibilisation. Les jeunes Canadiens veulent du matériel pédagogique fiable et factuel sur le cannabis et peuvent être des partenaires crédibles dans la préparation de ce matériel; nous espérons donc que tous les ordres de gouvernement verront l’utilité de promouvoir un débat équilibré sur le cannabis et qu’ils concevront des ressources en collaboration avec les jeunes.


Cannabis Jeunes Légalisation Éducation Campagnes publiques d’information 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  2. 2.British Columbia Centre on Substance UseVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Medical Science, Institute of Health Policy, Management and EvaluationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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