Marijuana in Montreal: Student advocate talks about impact on youth

Gonzo Nieto, the co-chairman of the grassroots organization Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, believes marijuana will be less accessible to minors once it’s regulated.

Gonzo Nieto of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy believes pot's regulation will reduce youth access

The co-chairman of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Gonzo Nieto, says regulating marijuana will make the drug less accessible to minors. (Laurence Pilon)

Gonzo Nieto, the co-chairman of the grassroots organization Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP), believes marijuana will be less accessible to minors once it's regulated.

CBC Daybreak spoke to Nieto about the impact of legal cannabis on youth as part of its series, Montreal 420.

As part of its “Montreal 420” series, CBC Daybreak spoke to Gonzo Nieto, national co-chair of the grassroots organization Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, about the impact of legal cannabis on youth. 8:08

Here are some of the key points Nieto addressed in the interview. Nieto's responses have been edited, for clarity.

On availability and use by youth

Gonzo Nieto: Under regulation, [marijuana] will be less widely available. There have been studies showing that youth in high schools in the U.S., a majority of them said that they could get cannabis within 24 hours. And that's currently under cannabis being illegal.

So I actually think that regulation will allow us to have the measures in place to limit that availability.

On the legal age for use

Advocates for 'sensible drug policy' held a 'Support, don't punish' rally in Toronto in 2015. (CSSDP)

It's interesting when you consider that a Senate report in 2002 recommended the age should be 16 years old. That being said, I think we already have established age limits in each province, and that's a good place to start.

I think it has less to with the age and more about the availability of information.

I think that for many people, especially with alcohol being legal, it is the parents who set an example of what moderate use looks like, and I think that we want to arrive at a place where we're not solely looking to the government, or to laws, for guidance but also empowering parents to be able to provide that guidance.

On how marijuana will be sold

Don Briere, owner of 15 Weeds Glass & Gifts medical marijuana dispensaries, displays some of the marijuana for sale in Vancouver, B.C. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

I think that there are very good alternatives to [marijuana being sold at the SAQ]. We can look to what's being done in several states, and what's being done in other countries that are already legalized.

That might look like cannabis-specific stores, that might look like provisions to have certain coffee shops and other things like that.

If you look at alcohol, for example, [at] the SAQ, and everything is labelled properly, so I know what the content is, and I think that the same thing should be in place for cannabis sales.

On addiction

(Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

I think there has been an over-emphasis on trying to look at what we call addictive substances, rather than trying to look at what it is that makes people have a tendency toward addiction, and to create policy that tries to remedy that from the beginning.

When we talk about substance addiction, and when we talk about substance use and the harm that comes along with it, we really need to look at the social determinants of addiction.

We need to look at what it is about the early childhood, about the social support, about the relationship with the parents that lead to substance dependence later on, and be implementing policies that deal with that.

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