Health Canada is planning to launch a new awareness campaign aimed at warning minors and young adults about the risks of using cannabis in the lead up to the drug becoming legal.
A public tender indicates Ottawa is looking for a contractor with creative talent to host a series of events across the country to bring together young people to talk about the risks of smoking marijuana.
Under the proposed Cannabis Act or B-C45, possession and consumption of recreational pot will become legal in Canada on July 1, 2018. The federal government has set the minimum legal age at 18, but provinces can decide to increase the age restriction, as some health officials recommend.
Along with its plan to legalize pot, the federal government has committed to introducing new measures to keep cannabis out of the hands of minors and set aside $9.6 million in this year's budget for public education about the risks of cannabis use with a focus on young people.
"Canadians need to be educated about the use of cannabis in order to mitigate its potential risks and harms. They generally view cannabis use as socially acceptable, but are ill-informed about the health and safety risks; this is especially true for youth," the tender reads.
"To get ready for and to support the new system, public awareness and education are critical to ensuring that Canadians, especially youth, are well-informed about the health and safety risks of cannabis use and about current laws."
A spokesperson from Health Canada declined to comment, saying the public tender has not yet closed.
Target audiences 13-17, 18-24
The campaign's messaging will target teens aged 13-17 and young adults 18-24, as well as their parents and teachers.
It will focus on driving home messages such as, "like alcohol, cannabis is not without risks," and "the younger cannabis use starts and the more it is used, the higher the health risks"
Meanwhile, parents and older adults will be encouraged to talk to teens about cannabis use.
Concerts could be venues to talk about pot
The document outlines how Health Canada is asking for two educational campaigns — one aimed at minors, the other young adults.
The marketing will be done through a series of events, like concerts, to be hosted across the country, where information about the health and safety risks will be delivered to youth.
According to the tender, it will be up to the contractor to book venues and find ways to entice young people to attend, possibly through social media or contests.
Events would run from December until March 2019.
Youth at higher risk of harm from cannabis, says research
Dr. Amy Porath, of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction, says cannabis remains the drug of choice for Canadians aged 15-24 and young people in Canada have some of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.
In a presentation to the federal government's health committee on the Cannabis Act, Porath, the centre's director of research and policy, called for a comprehensive public education campaign for young people before the recreational use of cannabis is legalized.
She also said teens face greater health risks from ingesting cannabis than adults because of their brains are still developing.