At this stage in the game, you probably already know that in July 2018, marijuana should be legal in Canada - and that obviously includes Quebec, too. But whether you’re for or against the idea, I think we can all agree that some things are definitely going to change.
Although the decision on whether or not to consume marijuana is a highly personal one, one thing’s for sure - legalization will make information about the drug a whole lot more accessible. So whatever you choose to do, you’ll have all the information you need to make an informed decision. But it’s also important to keep in mind that, legal or not, marijuana still comes with health risks and can have negative consequences.
You've probably had a million and one questions running through your head ever since the project to legalize cannabis in Canada was first announced. So here are a few answers to help inform you about the upcoming changes in Quebec!
1. Okay, so what exactly is the deal with the legalization of cannabis in Canada?
First, it's important to know that the decision to legalize marijuana in Canada wasn't made because experts decided weed isn't dangerous, or because they wanted to normalize consumption.
It's actually because of the fact that cannabis poses health and safety risks that the government opted to legalize and regulate it. That way, consumers will be better protected. For example, buying marijuana from legal sources means that consumers know exactly what their weed is made of. On the black market though, that information is not available, so you never know exactly what you’re getting.
At the moment, it’s illegal to possess, sell, produce or consume cannabis that’s not for medical reasons. But as you know, the Canadian government should legalize cannabis come July 2018 and will then be able to regulate its production. It'll be up to each province and territory to determine things like where marijuana will be sold, for example, where people can consume it and who will be legally allowed to do so.
Just like cigarettes, cannabis has health risks. So it’s only logical to establish clear rules for its production, sale and consumption. Regulation will only serve to better protect marijuana consumers at the end of the day.
2. What does marijuana consumption in Quebec look like?
According to the Enquête québécoise sur la santé de la population (EQSP), 15.2% of Quebecers age 15 and up consumed marijuana last year. Adolescents age 15 to17 years old and young adults age 18 to 24 were the two groups with the biggest proportion of cannabis users, to the tune of 31% of adolescents and 41.7% of young adults. Cannabis use is also more prevalent in men than in women.
3. So why do people consume marijuana?
There are different reasons why young people may decide to consume cannabis. For some, it’s simple curiosity. For others, it's the sensation of being high that really draws them in. Others do it as a way to fit in or be like their friends. And for some, it’s just a habit or a way to relieve stress.
4. What are the effects of marijuana consumption?
Actually, marijuana use can lead to a lot of different effects. The most widely known are spontaneous laughing, increased appetite or sleepiness.
In terms of physical effects, you might experience an elevated heart rate, difficulty with coordination and balance, red eyes or dry mouth.
But keep in mind these are far from being the only effects on your brain and body. Smoking weed can also impair your concentration and short-term memory, slow your reaction time, alter your senses or change your perception of space and time.
On top of that, for certain people, consuming marijuana can lead to anxiety, changes in self-perception and even hallucinations. It's also super key to remember that when it comes to mixing drugs and alcohol, you should be aware of the law of effect: meaning that any change to a characteristic related to a substance, the person consuming it, or the context in which it is consumed will also change the experience.
5. Are there any risks involved with consuming marijuana? And if so, what are they?
Legal or not, cannabis can change the functioning of your brain and can also affect your judgment. It might make you do things that you’d never even think of doing sober, like say things you’ll regret, get into an argument or fight with someone, post something embarrassing on Instagram or Facebook, have a risky sexual encounter, drive a car while impaired or even get into a car with someone who’s not fit to drive.
But the risks associated with smoking marijuana go beyond what it may or may not cause you to do while under the influence. Cannabis may evoke pleasant feelings in some people, but others can have a very strong negative reaction to the substance. Consumption can sometimes trigger psychological issues, like anxiety, and for some people it can even trigger psychotic episodes.
People aged 25 or younger are especially at risk since their brains aren’t fully developed just yet and certain parts are more vulnerable to the effects of weed. Early or regular marijuana use can actually even hinder the development of these parts.
6. So what happens when you use marijuana regularly?
Frequent or prolonged marijuana use could sap your interest and motivation, plus cause memory and concentration problems and even hallucinations. Not exactly the best side effects, especially since they can even last up to a few months after you stop consuming.
Like with any other substance, becoming dependent on marijuana is definitely not a good thing. In the case of cannabis in particular, 9% of those who consume run the risk of becoming dependent. That stat shoots up to 50% for those who use it every single day.
Adolescents and young adults who consume cannabis regularly are thought to be even more susceptible to problems at school or work caused by difficulties with math, learning and reading. Plus they're more likely to experience episodes of anxiety and psychosis, as well. There's also a huge chance it'll affect your relationship with family and friends at work or school.
7. How do you reduce or get rid of the risks tied to consumption?
The best way to totally eliminate the risks related to marijuana consumption is also the most logical way: choose not to consume.
But if you do decide to take cannabis, it’s important to adopt a few strategies to make sure that those risks are reduced. For example, you can decide to limit your consumption in advance, or ask a friend to watch how much you consume at a party.
It’s also important to not put yourself in harm’s way or in dangerous situations while consuming. For example, don't drive while high and avoid getting into a car with someone who's high - even if they claim they're fine to drive. Plus, it's always a good idea to avoid doing physical activity or sports that might be dangerous while you're under the influence of cannabis.
It’s also a good idea to avoid mixing substances, like cannabis and alcohol or cannabis and energy drinks, since each substance can amplify or mask the effects of the other.
Planning ahead means you'll be a lot better off and able to avoid crazy situations.
And finally, although the decision to use marijuana is highly personal, you should at least try to avoid getting stoned as a way to escape your problems or issues. There are other solutions for managing stress or complicated situations
One thing's for sure, if you do decide to consume, it's always best to be informed of all the risks and stay safe and in control.
For more information on cannabis, check out the Stay In Control website. There, you'll find advice, information, strategies to stay in control, interesting statistics and a whole lot more!
The information and awareness campaign aims to reduce the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol use and gambling among youth. It emphasizes the importance of knowing oneself and being assertive to help young people make informed decisions in crucial situations involving substance use and gambling, while at the same time providing accurate and credible information on the risks and consequences.