Canadian Education Expert Adds his Concerns on Youth Marijuana Consumption

People smoke marijuana joints at 4:20 p.m. as thousands of marijuana advocates gather in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California April 20, 2012.
People smoke marijuana joints at 4:20 p.m. as thousands of marijuana advocates gather in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California April 20, 2012. (Image via Reuters)

Paul W. Bennett, an Education Policy Researcher at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), is one of the latest Canadians sounding the alarm on marijuana-related consequences, which could endanger Canadian youth.

A national study in 2016 showed that Canadian youth are the top users of cannabis in the developed world, with one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old reporting daily or almost daily use of the substance.

Bennet, an Adjunct Professor of Education at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, wrote on his website on Thursday that there are “major education policy concerns remain unaddressed” as Canada readies to be the first developed nation worldwide to legalize marijuana.  

The professor, who is also the Founding Director of Schoolhouse Institute, cited studies in support of how marijuana is “damaging to academic performance,” enticing to “early-onset paranoid psychosis,” and how it is seen as a “much safer than alcohol,” probably inducing impaired driving.

Bennet cited a number of studies, including a 2017 study conducted by Dutch researchers that found that academic performance of Maastricht University students increased substantially when they were no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis.

– Clik HERE to read Bennet’s full report – 

The studies he shared fall in line with other research.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose made the legalization of marijuana a key part of his election platform, said that cannabis can be “problematic to the developing minds” that of teens.

Trudeau Says ‘Marijuana is Problematic’ but Defends Ottawa’s Imminent Pot Policy
Trudeau speaks to Canadians during his town hall tour on Tuesday. He said marijuana is “problematic” to teens,
who are developing.
(Image via Canadian Press)

On Tuesday, Health Canada urged parents in a tweet to speak with their teens about drugs and marijuana since not all are aware of risks.  It said marijuana can be addictive, and warned that the risk of addiction “rises to about 1 in 6 for people who started using cannabis as a teen.”

On Oct. 9, at the World Psychiatric Association’s World Congress in Berlin, one of the studies published showed people who had consumed cannabis before the age of 18 developed schizophrenia approximately 10 years earlier than others.

Also, a new study published in the journal of JAMA Psychiatry on Jan. 17 found that the early use of marijuana by teens is associated with higher odds of psychotic-like experiences. Psychosis describes the mental condition of losing touch with reality, such as experiencing hallucinations or delusions.

Smoking cannabis vs having it on its own

However, another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in early 2016 showed that marijuana use by adolescents is not associated with lower IQ or poorer educational performance – once – adjustments are made for potential confounders, specifically cigarette smoking.

The study researched the cumulative marijuana use and IQ of 2,235 at the age of 15 and their educational performance at 16.

However, teen cigarette smoking was associated with poorer educational outcomes even after researchers adjusted for other confounding variables.

Researchers concluded: “In summary, the notion that cannabis use itself is causally related to lower IQ and poorer educational performance was not supported in this large teenage sample.”

Bennet is also not alone.

Minimum age too young for cannabis?

Dr. Diane Kelsall, interim editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, said the upcoming cannabis bill does not spell any saftey net to vulnerable youth.

“There are a number of things in the legislation that are truly worrisome,” Kelsall said in an interview.

“If the intent is truly a public health approach and to protect our youth this legislation is not doing it.”

While different Canadian provinces are setting different minimum age to buy recreational marijuana. So far the bill sets it at 18, which experts find that problematic as there is evidence suggesting that the human brain doesn’t mature until about age 25.

Also, the bill does not limit the potency of the strains, which could possibly increase the risk of harmful effects with higher-strength cannabis.

The skeptics

However, skeptics of these warnings and avid supports of marijuana legalizations describe these statements are “reefer madness.” The term is used after a 1936 movie, considered a propaganda film, showing students descend into madness following use of marijuana.

Critics also are skeptics of the people behind the research. However, impaired driving due to drugs consumption as a concern will continue.

Impaired driving

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction said on its website that “Young people continue to be the largest group of drivers who die in crashes and test positive for alcohol or drugs,” and that age group continues “to be the largest group of drivers who die in crashes and test positive for alcohol or drugs.”

Statistics show that 5 percent of youth ages 15-24 reported driving after using marijuana during the past year, compared to 9.4% after consuming alcohol.

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