Canada: Ottawa Parents Look For Guidance As Cannabis Legalization Nears

Photo Credit: Matthew Kupfer

Ottawa parents are bracing for a new version of “the talk” with their children as the legalization of cannabis nears.

About 60 people — and an additional dozen officials from public health, school boards and local police — attended an information session Thursday night on how to talk to their children about cannabis.

Greely resident Keri Hatfield, who has two middle school-age children, said having a dad who was a police officer had kept her from ever considering trying cannabis.

“The fear of God was put into me not to do drugs,” she said.

“To have it become a normal thing like alcohol, it worries me. So I want to be prepared to deal with this with my kids.”

Legalization changes talk

Orléans resident Sally Ball said her son in Grade 6 has already come home talking about the legal amounts and street terms for cannabis, which was a surprise for her.

“We have the internet, everything’s at their fingertips. We want to be the ones to give them proper information,” she said.

Ball said legalization has changed the way she’ll have to approach the subject with her child.

“It’s easy at a young age to say [to your kids] ‘It’s illegal you can’t to do it, you shouldn’t do it, you’ll get caught, you’ll go to jail,'” she said.

“I just have to go about the health benefits like you would for tobacco.”

Andrew Teo said he will be discouraging his three children who are in Catholic school from ever trying cannabis and he came to the meeting to find out more information about how the law will change its availability.

“We’re obviously concerned about the children and if the schools are close to those retail stores that are selling marijuana,” Teo said.

Role of parents, schools

The official presentation delved into the health effects of cannabis on young people, including how it affects the development of the brain and the possibility of addiction.

Parents were told that they were important role models for their children when it came to drug use and that the majority of alcohol and drugs used by children are obtained within the home.

Petra Duschner, manager of mental health services at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, said cannabis is already part of the curriculum in Grade 6, as teachers address peer pressure and other issues.

Representatives from Rideauwood Family and Addiction Services were also on hand to talk about their outreach in school and how students who are exhibiting signs of substance abuse problems might be approached.

Marino Francispillai, program manager for school and community mental health at Ottawa Public Health, said the meeting was about addressing the science and resources for parents.

“We’re waiting for where the provincial and federal legislation lands and what the regulations look like,” he said.

Francispillai said OPH has recommended LCBO-operated Ontario Cannabis Stores be located as far as possible from places where young people gather.

There will be a second cannabis information session May 3 at Sir Robert Borden High School, starting at 6:30 p.m.