'Weed Myths' campaign aims to get young people asking questions about cannabis

Weed Myths is being presented in short videos on social media and in posters found in public places around the province.

Campaign tackles assumptions about how cannabis use affects driving and mental health

The Weed Myths campaign aims to increase awareness around cannabis use in young people. (Robert Short/CBC)

Posters at Halifax bus stops and hockey rinks with the banner Weed Myths are part of a new public awareness initiative about cannabis use, not an anti-drug crusade, says the director of the program behind the campaign.

The strategy, which includes short videos on social media, is to motivate young people to ask questions about cannabis, says  Dr. Phil Tibbo, director of the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program. 

Weed Myths looks at some assumptions people make about cannabis and driving as well as its effect on mental health.

Young people were consulted about the message and the way it is being delivered, Tibbo said.

"The important part is it's just about more awareness. That's what the youth also told us — 'don't tell us what not to do.' And that's why, if you look at the campaign, it's just questions."

Risks of use at an early age

The two myths that the campaign is addressing are: the idea that people drive better after using cannabis, and that cannbis is harmless.

Tibbo said with the legalisation of cannabis approaching, it's important to provide information to youth and young adults, whose brains are affected differently than older users by the consumption of cannabis.

"There's a lot of brain development that's happening during that late adolescent, early adult period, that's really that fine tuning of our processes, our synapses, our neurons, the connections in the different parts of the brain." 

Tibbo said that for some people, early and regular cannabis use can have an effect on mental processes such as cognition and mental health.

A new public awareness campaign in Nova Scotia called Weed Myths is intended to spur young people to question the effects of cannabis use. (Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance)

"Regular cannabis use, before 18, before 15, you increase your risk of development of schizophrenia or psychosis above and beyond what would normally be in the general population."

Tibbo said the risk ranges from a two- to four-per cent increase risk over the general population, to as high as a 12-per cent increase, with regular use at a younger age although there are other factors at play "including things like genetics.

"But we don't really have a clear picture of what some of those risk factors are and that's why it's important to have a public awareness and education campaign, so that people are aware of what the potential outcomes could be."

Tibbo said by translating the research on cannabis use into a format that reaches the people who are significantly affected by it, the campaign will allow young people to make informed decisions about their health. 

"A lot of this is just bringing up those questions and having that discussion."