Why is cannabis a concern for youth?

In Ontario cannabis is legal for those over the age of 19, but is illegal for anyone under that age. This means that under-age users will turn to the black market, or “street” products. These products are not regulated or checked by anyone, and can contain substances other than cannabis. In many cases, street cannabis has been found to include many other drugs such as cocaine and fentanyl, which can put them at high risk of overdose.

Youth are at higher risk of using multiple substances at once, which is known as polysubstance use. Mixing drugs together can have very dangerous and harmful effects. The two drugs can interact and change how the body responds. This can lead to the user making riskier decisions like using more drugs, engaging in sexual behaviours, or dangerous behaviours like impaired driving. The user can also become addicted to the other drug.

Another concern for youth is the risk of addiction. Cannabis is an addictive substance, even though many youth think otherwise. Cannabis Use Disorder falls under the Substance Related Disorder category in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).