Youth and cannabis

Is it safe for youth to use cannabis?

No. Cannabis is not safe for youth. Youth should avoid cannabis use until the age of 25 or older. Cannabis use can affect brain development and functioning. Even occasional cannabis use has risks including decreased memory, thinking abilities, and attention span. The higher the frequency of cannabis use, the higher the risks. The younger someone starts using, the higher the risk of mental illness and cannabis dependence. [1]

What are the key messages about cannabis use for youth?

If I suspect my child is using cannabis. What can I do about it?

Talk to your child about your concerns. They will be able to make better informed decisions if they are provided balanced information about cannabis and its effects. [9] We know that it can be a hard conversation to have, but there are tips to help you have this conversation.

Drug Free Kids Canada has created the Cannabis Talk Kit (Drug Free Kids Canada) to help adults talk with youth about cannabis. The resource provides information about cannabis so you can be prepared. For an additional youth resource, see Cannabis: What parents and caregivers need to know (School Mental Health-Assist).

Is cannabis worse for teenagers than adults?

Evidence shows that if youth begin using cannabis at an early age or use cannabis on a regular basis, health risks do increase. Even occasional cannabis use in youth can cause harmful effects to their developing brain, damage their lungs if smoked, increase the risk of mental illness, and can be addictive [10]. Public Health Sudbury & Districts recommends delaying use until the age of 25.

How does cannabis affect the teenage brain?

A teenager’s brain is still developing until around age 25. When someone under 25 uses cannabis, natural brain development can be disrupted, which can have lasting effects. [11] Cannabis can also effect how a person makes decisions, learns, regulates their emotions, and remembers or forgets things. [10]

What are some signs that my child might be using cannabis?

You may notice that [9]:

Cannabis use can be difficult to recognize. A lot of the signs might actually seem like normal teen behaviour, but what it really comes down to is that you know your child best, so if something seems off, you should listen to your instincts and talk to them about it. [9]

Are there cannabis resources for teachers and educators?

The Ontario Ministry of Education website has a page dedicated to cannabis information for educators (Government of Ontario, Ministry of Education).

For additional information, see the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association’s Cannabis Resources for Educators (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association).

What is my child going to be learning about cannabis in school?

Education about cannabis is integrated into the current Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum. For more information, see the Ministry of Ontario’s Cannabis Information for Educators (PDF), which gives a comprehensive description of where cannabis is mentioned in the curriculum.

I am a teen and I am looking for information about cannabis. Where can I go?

Read the Kids Help Phone’s Cannabis: Important Things to Know (Kids Help Phone). You can also connect with a Kids Help Phone counsellor by telephone or chat, and download the Kids Help Phone app called Always There. If you are feeling overwhelmed or find yourself in a crisis, connect with Health Sciences North’s Crisis Intervention Services (Health Sciences North) 7 days a week. (24-hour toll-free Crisis Line: 1.877.841.1101). In emergencies, call 911 immediately.

How does cannabis affect my child’s mental health?

We know that there is a strong connection between using cannabis and the possibility of developing mental illnesses, including psychosis or schizophrenia. This risk increases when cannabis use begins early on in teenage years or is used frequently. [11]

I use (or want to use) cannabis, but I don’t want my child to know. Should I be worried if they find out?

Parents are important role models for their children. If you use cannabis or alcohol, they will likely notice and they might comment or have questions. If your teen does mention your use, it can be uncomfortable. For more information about talking about cannabis with youth, check out the Drug-Free Kids Canada’s Cannabis Talk Kit (Drug Free Kids Canada).

1 Eastern Ontario Health Unit, “Cannabis Summary,” 2018.

9 Drug Free Kids Canada, “Cannabis Talk Kit,” 2017. [Online]. Available:

10 School Mental Health-ASSIST, “Cannabis Info-Sheet,” 2018. [Online]. Available:

11 Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, “The Effects of Cannabis Use During Adolescence,” 2015. [Online]. Available:

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This item was last modified on October 15, 2018