4/19 pot panel wants to clear the air regarding cannabis and youth

On the eve of 4/20, CBC is hosting a panel to give kids and parents the information they need before anyone tokes up.

Titled 4/19, the free evening event at Vancouver Technical secondary hosted by CBC’s Gloria Macarenko is aimed at informing teenagers and their parents about the medical, social and legal impacts of cannabis use for youth, with legalization in sight.

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Experts range from youth workers and police officers to lawyers and scientists, covering all aspects of this hazy issue.

“They haven’t rolled out enough information for teenagers and their parents,” said the event’s producer, Anne Penman. She hopes this evening will clear the air — at least a little.

“It’s unreasonable to think that teenagers won’t try it,” said Penman, adding that the panel discussion is about opening a dialogue.

Penman is cautious about impending marijuana legalization this summer. “It’s going to make it look like it’s harmless,” she said. “Legalization of recreational cannabis is going to socially sanction cannabis like alcohol.”

Indeed, with the federal marijuana legalization bill now passing through the senate, cannabis will soon occupy similar legal ground to alcohol.

According to a 2017 study by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, after alcohol, cannabis is the most used substance in Canada.

The same study noted that 33 per cent of students in grade 12 in Canada reported use in the past year, and that B.C. has highest prevalence of cannabis use at 17.3 per cent.

One of Penman’s concerns is the effect of cannabis on brain development, something that has garnered a lot of debate among scientists.

University of British Columbia professor and researcher for the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, M-J Milloy says the link between cannabis and brain development is still merely by association.

“There’s a great number of scientists worldwide working on this issue, but there’s been no smoking gun,” Milloy said.

Zach Walsh, another UBC researcher specializing in cannabis, concurs. “The evidence is weaker than the rhetoric.”

According to Walsh, there appears to be a link between schizophrenia and other psychosis and marijuana use, but this could just be an association rather than causal.

He notes that there’s been a dramatic increase in cannabis use in recent years, especially in Canada, but schizophrenia levels have stayed stagnant.

Nonetheless, he says people with underlying mental health conditions or who are at a high risk “should refrain as long as possible.”  

Researcher and 4/19 panelist Annie Smith has spoken with kids in schools about cannabis use and finds there’s a lot of misinformation, such as students believing it improves driving or studying ability.

“It’s all about having a discourse,” Smith said. “Some kids are really well informed, some kids get their information from their friends.”

The event runs 7:30 to 9 p.m. Seats can be reserved online at Eventbrite.



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