Room for Improvement in Provincial Cannabis Messaging for Youth, Researchers Say

Article by Solomon Israel, Leaf News

Room for improvement in provincial cannabis messaging for youth, researchers say Risk-based messaging causes young people to "tune out," researcher says By: Solomon Israel  A marijuana joint is shared at Cannabis Culture in Montreal, Friday, December 16, 2016. The federal government wants to ensure younger teens don't wind up with a criminal record for pot possession. Graham Hughes   It will take time to determine how cannabis legalization in Canada affects rates of marijuana use among youth, experts say. (Graham Hughes Cannabis Culture,

A group of researchers tracking provincial cannabis education campaigns aimed at youth say those messages could be improved in ways that might help them resonate better with young Canadians.

The new commentary in the Canadian Journal of Public Health grew out of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant to track the outcomes of cannabis legalization across Canada’s four largest provinces, said co-author Sergio Rueda, an independent scientist at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto.

The team is seeking more funding to study legalization’s impacts in other provinces as well, he said.

“What we’re seeing essentially now is that there’s a lack of information, or what different provinces are planning to do, whether or not they’re planning to engage with youth,” he said.

Some provinces’ education campaigns for youth rely on the traditional model of abstinence-based messaging that focuses on the risks of using cannabis, the paper said.

But research suggests that approach won’t work very well, said Rueda.

“One of the things we know is that there’s very limited evidence showing that this risk-based or abstinence-based messaging and mass education programs targeting youth based on those principles are effective,” he said.

The paper specifically calls out the Manitoba government’s “Know the Risks” campaign, and a Quebec campaign that features tongue-in-cheek images of teenagers who experience bizarre physical anomalies after using cannabis. Campaigns such as those, “may overstate the evidence on certain cannabis-related harms, and appear to omit the experiences of young people who have experimented with or are currently using cannabis and have not encountered any harms,” the commentary says.

It’s definitely important to educate cannabis users on the potential risks of heavy use, said co-author Jenna Valleriani, the CEO of the non-profit National Institute of Cannabis Health and Education and who has studied the impacts of government cannabis policies.

Read the full article here.

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