CANADA: Marijuana at school: Loss of concentration, risk of psychosis

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Marijuana at school: Loss of concentration, risk of psychosis

January 2018 10.17am AEDT

One of the enduring myths about marijuana is that it is “harmless” and can be safely used by teens.

Many high school teachers would beg to disagree, and consider the legalization of marijuana to be the biggest upcoming challenge in and around schools. And the evidence is on their side

As an education researcher, I have visited hundreds of schools over four decades, conducting research into both education policy and teen mental health. I’ve come to recognize when policy changes are going awry and bound to have unintended effects.

As Canadian provinces scramble to establish their implementation policies before the promised marijuana legalization date of July 2018, I believe three major education policy concerns remain unaddressed.

These are that marijuana use by children and youth is harmful to brain development, that it impacts negatively upon academic success and that legalization is likely to increase the number of teen users.

‘Much safer than alcohol’

Across Canada, province after province has been announcing its marijuana implementation policy, focusing almost exclusively on the control and regulation of the previously illegal substance. This has provoked fierce debates over who will reap most of the excise tax windfall and whether cannabis will be sold in government stores or delegated to heavily regulated private vendors.

All of the provincial pronouncements claim that their policy will be designed to protect “public health and safety” and safeguard “children and youth” from “harmful effects.”


However, a 2015 report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse cites rates of past-year cannabis use ranging from 23 per cent to 30 per cent among students in grades seven to 12 in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador during 2012-2013. And notes that, “of those Canadian youth who used cannabis in the past three months, 23 per cent reported using it on a daily or near daily basis.

The report also describes youth perceptions of marijuana as “relatively harmless” and “not as dangerous as drinking and driving.”

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