Youth need to be warned of the dangers of cannabis, vaping

Any use of cannabis, including by vaping, is dangerous for young people, and they need to be educated about the effects on their brains and bodies, the board of trustees for the Holy Family Separate Roman Catholic School Division heard at their monthly board meeting on Nov. 26.

Natasha Perkins presented extensive information about cannabis and vaping to the board, and explained the different types of drugs along with their dangers.

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“We don’t know enough about the effects of cannabis. The developing brain isn’t finished until you’re 25, so you really don’t know how it’s going to affect you. It’s best to wait,” said Perkins, when asked what educators should be telling young people. “The approach is to provide information and evidence and create a dialogue over time. The biggest argument I can think of is the impact on a youth’s developing brain, and also the dangers of illegal products. There are regulations in place so adults can enjoy it responsibly.”

She explained that a big danger to illegal cannabis products, including those available for vaping, is the drugs include a lot of unregulated and often toxic substances, plus there is no control on the levels of THC, which is the ingredient that gives the high in cannabis.

Perkins said at least one in five teens, between the ages of 15 and 19, have used cannabis in the last year, and youth are two-and-a-half times more likely to use cannabis than adults are.

“Canadian youth are the top users of cannabis in the developed world,” she added. “It’s important for parents, teachers and coaches to speak freely with youth about drug use. We need to trust youth with handling the facts about drugs.”

Regulations for using marijuana as a medical drug were introduced in 2013, and cannabis was legalized by the federal government for recreational use in 2018, with edibles now being allowed this year.     Perkins also pointed out that there are real medical applications for cannabis, such as treating people with multiple sclerosis.

The federal government sets the regulations on supply of cannabis, as well as on how it’s packaged and labelled, while each province has its own framework for the retail sales of cannabis. Saskatchewan has an open retail market, and retailers can sell online along with retail outlets.

Showing examples of legal packaging for cannabis, Perkins noted that a legal product has to have a large yellow warning label along with a red THC label if it contains THC in any volume. On illegal packages, they do not have the proper excise stamps that only a legal product has, and some are sold in baggies, which no legal product ever is.

A couple of retailers have tried to sneak in illegally packaged products and have been caught, such as one business in Winnipeg that had 200 kilograms of black market cannabis on their property.

In regard to vaping, one of the biggest problems is the use of Vitamin E acetate, which can cause irreversible damage to lungs, and can have severe health consequences.

Those who use cannabis in vaping can encounter some highly toxic unregulated products, such as a product known as “Shatters” which can contain up to 90 per cent pure THC.

“It’s just all sorts of bad,” said Perkins, who noted that this product can cause extreme reactions and health problems.

“Should we be concerned that students are smoking cannabis more than we think they might be?” she was asked.

“Yes. A lot of illegal products are selling online across Canada, and you should be concerned,” Perkins replied.

One trustee commented that his granddaughter told him it’s easier to get illegal cannabis than it is to buy legal products.

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