Among the most important aspects of regulating cannabis is a robust, informative and honest public education program. For insight on how to construct such a platform, U.S. states can look to our neighbors up north.
Canada approved recreational cannabis this past summer. Through legislative process, it became the first first-world country to do so. While the law does not go into effect until October 17, with some sales starting up after that, Canada has already launched well-though-out public health campaigns. Health Canada, the government department, has invested $100 million in this educational push.
Particularly impressive is the programming for youths.
Opponents of legal pot have pointed how that it could increase underage use. And since some parents may be unwilling — or lack the knowledge — to talk with their kids about the drug, children may try marijuana without understanding the proper danger it poses for their developing minds and bodies.
Canada’s public safety website — titled Your Cannabis Questions, Answered — is a frank and refreshing resource. It’s tailored towards adults and children alike. In clearly labeled sections, the site succinctly explains the short- and long-term effects of cannabis, how pot affects young people’s health, the purpose of medicinal marijuana, and the facts of cannabis addiction.
The site makes clear the risks involved. Pot can bring about negative mental and psychological consequences for people of all ages, especially with regular use. And from the onset the site explains the hazards of driving while under the influence.
Health Canada also explains how cannabis is especially dangerous for individuals under the age of 25. The brain is still developing at this point, a process that makes younger users very vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. Abusing the drug during this critical stage of mental development is particularly unsafe, with long-term consequences.
Which is not to suggest that the website unfairly paints cannabis as an overwhelming threat to public safety. While dangers exist, pot when used safely by legal-age consumers should pose no more public danger than alcohol when consumed safely.
Health Canada backs up this point by designing its website in a way that depicts cannabis fairly. Not as an undeniable danger, but a potentially enjoyable and medicinal product worth knowing more about before you consider using it. This sort of frank-through-fair educational programming is worth replicating by state governments in America.