Kids know more about cannabis than you think
How do we explain to our kids that cannabis is harmful when it’s legal for adults to use?
That was one of many questions Charlottetown Police Services addressed at a cannabis information session that drew about 150 parents, caregivers, and educators recently at Birchwood Intermediate School.
Organized by Charlottetown’s four junior high schools, the evening featured three police department staff directly involved with young people – school liaison officer Const. Tim Keizer, drug recognition expert Const. Maliqi Fatdarth, and Mental Health and Addictions Coordinator Carmina Gaite.
Parents received information on medical, legal, and social and emotional impacts of marijuana use and how they can navigate legalization. Under new federal legislation, marijuana use will be legal in Canada for people over aged 19 after October 17, 2018.
“This is new for all of us,” Birchwood Principal Ronnie Carragher said at the beginning of the evening. “The more proactive we are, the more conversations we have, the more we can educate ourselves and our kids.”
It’s the parent’s responsibility to know the new laws and help educate their children, Keizer said. For example: it will be illegal to possess more than 30 grams of cannabis; cannabis is to be used at home, not in public places; and you can’t grow more than four plants at home (that's per household, not per person).
It's important that adults understand that cannabis can not be shared with, or accessible to minors, or they (the adults) will be charged, Keizer explained. The provincial fine is $1,250 - $2,500 and federal fine is $5,000, or possible prison time.
Keizer told the crowd we should start the conversation about cannabis early with young people. Grade eight is when many teens will start to experiment with drugs, and many use it as a type of escape from the pressures and expectations of school.
“The kids know what is going on; they know more than you think. You might not like some of the conversations you’re going to have to have, but you better be ready for this.”
The connection between home and school was the main reason the schools wanted to host an information night, said Queen Charlotte Principal KJ White. As an educator and the father of four adolescents and teens, White says he intends to use the Cannabis Talk Kit as a starting point with his own children.
“This kit clearly outlines the facts, the risks. This way it’s not me telling them this; it’s Health Canada.”
Gaite explained what to look for if you think your child might be using marijuana or other drugs.
“Drugs significantly impair the development of emotional intelligence and a child’s ability to learn healthy ways to cope with sadness, stress and boredom,” she said.
Keizer said, through education, he wants to help students understand the new laws to keep them away the criminal side of things. While cannabis may become legal on October 17 for adults, bringing drugs or alcohol onto school grounds will be illegal – as it always has been.
“This new reality is knocking on our door,” he said. “We have to prepare our children.”
Some Island schools are arranging parent information sessions, as noted below:
- Tuesday October 9 at 6:30 p.m - parent information session on teens and cannabis, organized by Bluefield, Colonel Gray and Charlottetown Rural principals at Charlottetown Rural
- Monday, October 29 at 6:30 p.m. - cannabis information session hosted by Three Oaks and the Parent Council at Three Oaks Senior High School
- Thursday, November 22 - student assemblies will be held at Westisle Composite, Hernewood Intermediate and ME Callaghan, as well as an adult session at Westisle that evening.