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Cannabis

Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, you may think it’s harmless. But it’s not. Cannabis use can have short- and long-term harmful health effects (PDF). Using cannabis can increase the risk of injury, motor vehicle crashes, respiratory problems, reproductive concerns, mental health issues including dependence and psychosis, and impacts on youth brain development. 1 2 Know the risks. Get the facts.

 

5 Things to Know about Cannabis (Video by University of Waterloo)

 

Parenting

Parents are the #1 influence in a child’s life. Parents have a major role in protecting their child’s health and development, especially when it comes to substance use. As a parent or guardian it is important to know the risks so you can make informed decisions and can share this information with your child.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Cannabis use before, during and after pregnancy (PDF), and while breastfeeding, can be harmful to a baby. The chemicals from cannabis can pass from a woman’s body to the baby during pregnancy, and from breastmilk to a baby when breastfeeding.3 4 5 To avoid any possible negative health effects (PDF) it is safest to avoid all forms of cannabis use while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Children and Youth

Cannabis use impacts the children and youth around you. Children tend to copy what they see (PDF) and are influenced by any type of smoking around them. Substance-free role models can be a positive influence on youth in the community.6 7

 

Cannabis use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding can be harmful to a baby.

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Cannabis use impacts the children and youth around you. Kids copy what they see.

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Lock up Cannabis Products

Cannabis poisonings in Ontario are increasing. Locking up cannabis edibles, whether purchased or home made, is important because they are made to taste good, and can often look like treats. Cannabis edibles often contain high amounts of THC and can greatly affect children because of their small body size and lower weight. Children may consume edibles in large amounts not knowing it has THC in it.8 9 The Ontario Poison Centre suggests that many cases of cannabis poisonings are from unregulated products (products not approved by Health Canada’s cannabis rules) where they can look almost the same as popular brands of candy and contain more THC.9

 

Keep cannabis edibles locked up, out of sign and reach of children and youth.

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Cannabis edibles may look appealing to children and youth, so make sure they are properly labelled, locked up and stored out of sight and reach of children and youth.

Watch the Video

Cannabis edibles may look appealing to children and youth, so make sure they are properly labelled, locked up and stored out of sight and reach of children and youth. Poisoning could occur if children or youth unintentionally eat edibles which could lead to serious health problems.

How to Lock up Cannabis Edibles

  • Label the product if it is homemade
  • Put your cannabis in a child resistant container
  • Don’t put cannabis edibles with your regular food
  • Put it out of sight and reach
  • Put a lock on a high cupboard

Talking to your Child about Cannabis Use

It is important to take the time to sit down and talk about to your child about cannabis, their cannabis use or understand their desire to use. Parents can give their teens balanced information about the effects of cannabis to help them make informed decisions. Here are some great resources to help with the conversation.


Mental Health

Cannabis use has many risks, especially for teens and young adults. Research shows that cannabis use impacts the developing brain and can lead to serious mental health problems such as psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Cannabis use can also reduce motivation, cause memory problems, decrease IQ, and can lead to cannabis use disorder.10

Brain development

Brain development (PDF) in youth and young adults can be negatively affected by cannabis use. The brain continues to grow and change until a person is approximately 25 years old. When cannabis, alcohol, or other drugs are used during this critical time in brain development, it can disrupt the way brain connections are made.10 11

Mental health problems

Cannabis use can increase the risk of developing a mental health problem, especially in youth and young adults. It's an addictive substance and starting use at an early age can increase the likelihood of a person developing a problem. Regular cannabis use before the age of 25 can also increase a person’s risk of developing psychosis, schizophrenia, depression, and/or anxiety disorders.7 10 11

 

Cannabis use can have a negative impact on brain development in youth and young adults.

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Cannabis use by youth can increase risk of mental health problems.

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Cannabis Edibles

Cannabis edibles are products that you eat or drink, which contain THC and/or CBD. If you choose to consume cannabis edibles, know the risks. They affect you differently than inhaling cannabis, and they can look like common foods such as cookies or brownies.

It takes a long time to feel the effects

It takes a long time for your body to absorb the THC from cannabis edibles. The intoxicating effects of cannabis edibles do not kick in for about 30 minutes to 2 hours. It can take up to 4 hours to feel the full effects. Effects can last up to 12 hours after use. Taking more before feeling the effects can result in over-intoxication. Wait. Go slow.

The effects can be more intense

The effects of cannabis edibles can be more intense than inhaling a similar dose of dried cannabis. If you chose to use, starting with a lower amount of THC and waiting to feel the effects before consuming more will reduce the risk of over-intoxication. Start low. Go Slow.

 

The effects of cannabis edibles can take up to 2 hours or longer to be felt. Wait. Go slow.

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Choose cannabis edibles with low THC. Start low. Go slow.

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Impaired Driving

It doesn’t matter if it’s impairment from cannabis, alcohol, or any other drug, impaired driving is illegal and increases the risk of a crash.12 13 Never use substances before driving, and never ride in a vehicle with a driver who has used cannabis, alcohol or other drugs.

Mixing Cannabis and Alcohol

Alcohol increases the effects of cannabis. Mixing alcohol and cannabis can significantly increase the risk of over-intoxication and could result in anxiety, panic, nausea, vomiting, and paranoia. Avoid mixing cannabis with alcohol or other substances.

 

Impaired driving is illegal and increases the risk of a crash. Drive sober.

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Avoid mixing cannabis and alcohol to lower health risks and harms.

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Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines

Cannabis use is a personal choice, but it comes with risks to your health and well-being. Get the facts so you can make informed decisions. If you choose to use cannabis, follow Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (PDF) to reduce your risks.

 

If you choose to use, follow Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.

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The Law

On October 17, 2018, cannabis was legalized in Canada. There are various pieces of legislation at the federal and provincial levels that provide the legal framework to control the production, possession, use and sale of cannabis. On October 17, 2019, cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals were also legalized for purchase in Canada. The Ontario Government has clearly outlined:

  • The minimum age requirement to buy, use, possess and grow cannabis
  • Where you can and cannot smoke or vape cannabis
  • Where you can legally purchase cannabis
  • How much cannabis you are able to possess
  • Driving impaired by cannabis penalties
Federal Legislation Provincial Legislation
The Cannabis Act, 2018 controls the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. The Cannabis Control Act, 2017 and its regulations control the sale, distribution, and possession of cannabis within Ontario.

On October 17, 2019, cannabis edibles, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals were legalized for purchase in Canada. On this date, the Federal Cannabis Regulations were amended to include rules related to the production and sale of other cannabis products including edibles, extracts, and topicals.

The Cannabis Licence Act, 2018 and its regulations control the licencing and authorization of cannabis retail stores as well as the sale of cannabis through retail stores within the province.
The Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 regulates the smoking and vaping of cannabis.

 

Cannabis use and vaping are illegal in all places where smoking is banned.

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You can’t smoke cannabis or vape anything on school or hospital grounds.

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Smoking or vaping in a vehicle? If there are kids under the age of 16, you can be charged.

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It is illegal to sell or give cannabis to anyone under the age of 19. You can be charged.

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Cannabis use and vaping are illegal in all places where smoking is banned.

You can’t smoke cannabis or vape anything on school or hospital grounds.

  • Just like tobacco, smoking or vaping cannabis on or within 20 metres of school property is illegal.14 It is also illegal to smoke or vape cannabis on hospital grounds or within 9 metres of any entrance or exit of a hospital.14

Smoking or vaping in a vehicle? If there are kids under the age of 16, you can be charged.

  • It's illegal for drivers and their passengers to smoke or vape any substance in the vehicle if anyone is 15 years old or younger.14 No one in a motor vehicle can consume cannabis while the vehicle is being driven, or at risk of being put into motion.14 It's illegal to drive while impaired, whether it’s from alcohol, cannabis or any other drug.12

It is illegal to sell or give cannabis to anyone under the age of 19. You can be charged.

  • Strict laws are in place to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth. It is illegal to sell or distribute cannabis to anyone under 19 years of age.15

Videos


Additional Resources

Learn more about the health and social effects of cannabis, how to talk to your kids about drug use, and resources to get help with cannabis use.

Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis Series
Regular Use and Mental Health (PDF) Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis: Respiratory Effects of Cannabis Smoking (PDF)
Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis: Maternal Cannabis Use during Pregnancy (PDF) Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis: Medical Use of Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDF)
Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis: Cannabis Use and Driving (PDF) Regular Use and Cognitive Functioning (PDF)
 
Date of creation: February 1, 2013
Last modified on: July 13, 2022

References

1The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (2020). Cannabis. Retrieved from
https://www.ccsa.ca/cannabis-canadian-drug-summary
2The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2018). Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines. Retrieved from
https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pdfs---reports-and-books---research/canadas-lower-risk-guidelines-cannabis-pdf.pdf
3The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (n.d.). Cannabis and Pregnancy Don’t Mix. Retrieved from
https://www.pregnancyinfo.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CannabisFactsheetEN.pdf
4The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (2018). Are you pregnant or considering pregnancy? Did you know the use of cannabis may be harmful to your baby? Retrieved from
https://www.pregnancyinfo.ca/learn-more/
5Best Start Resource Centre. (2017). Risks of Cannabis on Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Parenting. Retrieved from
https://www.beststart.org/resources/alc_reduction/RisksOfCannabis_A30-E.pdf
6Linkenbach, J. (2002). The Main Frame: Strategies for Generating Social Norms News. Montana, US: Montana State University. Retrieved from
http://www.alcoholeducationproject.org/THE%20MAIN%20FRAME.pdf
7Drug Free Kids Canada. (2018). Cannabis Talk Kit – Know How to Talk to Your Teen. Retrieved from
https://www.drugfreekidscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Cannabis-Talk-Kit_EN.pdf
8Parachute. (March 2022). #HighAndLocked. Retrieved from
https://www.parachutecanada.org/en/program/highandlocked
9Ontario Poison Centre. (n.d.). Cannabis and kids. Retrieved from
https://www.ontariopoisoncentre.ca/for-families/cannabis-and-kids
10The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (2015). The Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence. Retrieved from
https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/CCSA-Effects-of-Cannabis-Use-during-Adolescence-Report-2015-en.pdf
12Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. (2018). Impaired Driving. Retrieved from
http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/impaired-driving.shtml
13The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (2019). Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis – Cannabis Use and Driving – An Update. Retrieved from
https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/CCSA-Cannabis-Use-Driving-Report-2017-en.pdf
14Ministry of Health & Long-Term Care. (2018). Where you can't smoke or vape in Ontario. Retrieved from
https://www.ontario.ca/page/where-you-cant-smoke-or-vape-ontario
15Queen’s Printer for Ontario. (2017). Cannabis Control Act, 2017, S. O. 2017, C. 26, Schedule 1. Retrieved from
https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/17c26