It hasn’t even been a week since we received the final date of legalization in Canada and already the hand-wringing and pearl-clutching contingent of “what about the children” protectionist public discourse is ramping up. On last night’s episode of the Shift with Drex I called in to talk about this ridiculous op-ed from Jim Warren that suggested we should have set the age for legal access at 21 years in order to “protect kids” and keep cannabis out of high schools. I was glad to hear from callers of several different generations and geographies who were simply not buying this. We know that cannabis is already easily accessible in high schools and in teens’ peer networks. Setting the age higher would only serve the illicit markets while perhaps sending the message to youth that alcohol is a ‘safer’ substance if you can access it legally at 18 or 19. Along with my colleague Dr. Matt Hill, I submitted a brief on this topic of age-based limits to the Alberta Government as they were inviting consultations on their regulatory framework. Harmonizing the age of access for cannabis with the age of access to alcohol is really the best policy option, but I am ‘highly’ skeptical that those focused on ‘protection’ will ever be able to wrap their heads around that.
Audio below – I show up at the 9.40 mark. Glad there are folks like Drew who won’t be easily persuaded by the abundance of Reefer Madness myths that our surely coming our way in droves between now and October 17th.
So proud of my colleagues and friends who fought tirelessly for this change. Glad that I got to play a very small part in this historic moment. It’s a very good day to be a Canadian, a cannabis legalization researcher, and an advocate for the human rights of people who use drugs.
I was really happy to be invited by the Government of the Northwest Territories to kick off their Cannabis and Health webinar series. Below is a link to the recording of one of three sessions I recorded and presented live today, this one targeted to high school students. This was my first trip up north and it was great. The people I met were really receptive to the need for a public health approach to legalization and generally positive about the need for youth education approaches that do not only focus on harms.
This was also my first time in front of a teen audience in a long time and I have to admit I found it a bit challenging (and fairly nerve-wracking!), given how much I talk about what we should not be doing in youth drug education. Overall my main intent was to be clear and honest with young people about “what we know for sure,” where the science is still uncertain, and also the concrete steps people can take to reduce harms and to use more safely if they make the choice to use cannabis. A big thanks to Dr. Corriveau and team for hosting me – I will definitely be back when I have more time to explore. Also, a special shout-out to Shelley Wiart, who wrote a nice profile in advance of my visit that was published in the Yellowknifer. Shelley is from Yellowknife and a fierce advocate for Indigenous women’s health – truly an honour to know her and to be included under the banner of Women Warriors.
Today I had an opportunity to have a chat with radio host Rob Breakenridge about the different regulatory approaches to public consumption bylaws in Calgary and Edmonton, as well my piece in The Conversation about why cannabis education campaigns are ineffective for youth.