In keeping with a Canadian research, legalizing leisure herbs has not lowered youth use as anticipated

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Cannabis use among young people is a constant concern.

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Angela Stelmakowich How legalization has affected youth use of weeds is decidedly mixed.  /. How legalization has affected youth use of weeds is decidedly mixed. /. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS / AFP / Getty Images

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Canada legalized recreational cannabis more than two years ago, but the passage of time has not resulted in the expected lower consumption among young people, according to a review of study data that included more than 100,000 adolescents.

“The high prevalence of cannabis use among adolescents in this sample remains a matter of concern,” notes the preliminary study recently published online in Preventive Medicine Reports, an open access journal on preventive medicine. “These data suggest that the Cannabis Act has not yet resulted in a reduction in adolescent cannabis use that its public health approach includes,” write authors from Ontario and Quebec.

To characterize general usage trends among adolescents before and after legalization, investigators reviewed data on secondary school students at 76 schools in Alberta, BC, Ontario, and Quebec from the COMPASS study. Using cross-sectional and longitudinal approaches, weed use was considered two school years before legalization (2016-2017 and 2017-2018) and a point in time after (2018-2019).

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“Cannabis use among adolescents is still common, as consumption increased from 30.5 percent in 2016-2017 to 32.4 percent in 2018-2019,” the study says.

All use was defined as previous cannabis use, current use was at least once a month or more, regular use was at least once a week or more, and occasional use was one to three times a month or less.

While the probability of weed consumption among adolescents with repeated cross-sectional samples was 1.05 times the probability of the previous year, the longitudinal sample showed “no significant differences in the trends in cannabis use over time”.

The study’s authors also note that increased usage “does not appear to have resulted in a change in regular usage”.

Regarding the differences by province, the repetition cross-sectional model shows: “Students in Quebec and BC reported significantly less frequent use than students in Alberta. In the longitudinal model, Alberta students also had significantly higher chances than Ontario students of reporting regular use. “

“Cannabis use among adolescents is still common, as use increased from 30.5 percent in 2016-2017 to 32.4 percent in 2018-2019.” /. Photo by Getty Images

One factor could be that Alberta has more retail stores than other jurisdictions in the country, the study found. “Combined with different approaches to cannabis distribution and age restrictions, as well as less tangible factors such as public health efforts, provincial differences in cannabis use among adolescents are likely to persist and possibly intensify over time,” notes he stuck.

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How legalization has affected youth use of weeds is decidedly mixed. “Although many studies have found few harmful effects, others found that adolescents were adversely affected,” the study’s authors write.

A US study published in 2015 states, “We find that people age 21 and older are more likely to be presently using marijuana, regularly using marijuana, and being abused / dependent on marijuana.” Compare this to another US study , which was published three years later and in which researchers reported that the enactment of medical marijuana laws “is linked to a decline in marijuana and other drugs in early adolescence in these states”.

According to the Government of Canada, citing Health Canada’s Canadian Survey of Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs, in 2017, 15 percent of Canadians aged 15 and over had used cannabis in the past 12 months. Broken down by age, 19 percent of those aged 15 to 19 had consumed weeds, 33 percent of people between 20 and 24 had consumed cannabis, and 13 percent of those aged 25 and over had done so.

More recently, an analysis by the Canadian Institute for Health Information confirmed what many have been reporting for some time: COVID-19 has increased the use of cannabis and alcohol. Among respondents 18 to 24, 36 percent had used weeds.

One possible stumbling block appears to be that One possible stumbling block appears to be that “in most of these contexts, policy approaches have been market driven rather than public health principles”. /. Photo by AlexLMX / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Investigators at the recent COMPASS data review found that one of the main reasons recreational cannabis was legalized was to reduce consumption among adolescents, with the legislation focused on public health and education.

“The adverse effects of cannabis use on brain development and the fact that the course of substance use in adults is most commonly rooted in adolescence have also been identified as factors to be considered during the legalization process,” the study authors write.

One possible stumbling block in countries where adult cannabis is now legal appears to be that “policies in most of these contexts have been market-driven rather than public health”.

In these circumstances, it does not appear to have had a positive impact on adolescent weed use in Canada, and legalization has not “slowed or reversed trends in adolescent cannabis use”.

Future approaches must “not only characterize adolescent cannabis use as a whole, but also examine how it is influenced by individual, community and provincial factors, including prevention and harm reduction programs, when recreational cannabis use becomes embedded in Canadian society,” recommend the Authors.

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