Ontario prepping reefer awareness campaign on the dangers of marijuana as legalization date approaches

The Ontario government plans to launch an education campaign aimed at young people ahead of the legalization of recreational marijuana.  (Irfan Khan / TNS)  

Think of it as Reefer Awareness, not Reefer Madness, an over-the-top 1936 film preaching the evils of marijuana.

With less than a year until the federal government legalizes recreational marijuana, Ontario is starting work on a public education campaign to highlight health and other dangers of pot – particularly to young adults.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins wants the effort to hit the airwaves, newspapers and social media well before the new pot law kicks in next July 1 with 19 the likely age of majority in this province.

“There’s strong evidence that the brain continues to develop up until roughly the age of 25 and evidence that cannabis use can negatively impact that,” he says.

That means possible memory problems, struggling with math and reading, general learning difficulties and a higher likelihood of becoming addicted to marijuana the younger someone starts, depending on usage levels, research suggests.

“The key to all of this is very strong public education so that parents and kids understand what the risks are, like with alcohol,” adds Hoskins, a physician himself.

“It’s about informed decision-making.”

The Canadian Medical Association and other health-care groups have been ramping up warnings about the use of cannabis by people under 25 as policies are being developed in Ottawa and provincial capitals.

“Children and youth are especially at risk for marijuana-related harms, given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development,” the association wrote in its latest brief to the federal government.

“Our understanding of the health effects of marijuana continues to evolve. Marijuana use is linked to several adverse health outcomes, including addiction, cardiovascular and pulmonary effects (e.g., chronic bronchitis), mental illness, and other problems, including cognitive…

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