Marijuana legalization in Canada

Marijuana legalization in Canada comes into effect Wednesday, October 18th 2018. “Canadian youth already have one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, and Canadians aged 18 to 24 are the most enthusiastic purchasers of weed.” [1] This is a quote that most parents do not want to read, but with October 17th quickly upon us it is important to understand the ins and outs of marijuana legalization and more importantly, it’s effect on adolescents and young adults. We will discuss some of the new legal changes, as well as research from Canadian psychologist, Dr. Andra Smith.

Legal marijuana use in Canada is a concept that many will have to adapt to in the coming months and years. In Ontario, the age limit to posses, smoke or purchase marijuana for recreational reasons is 19. A major concern of most Canadians is how road safety will be affected by the new legalization laws; though Ontario has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone caught driving impaired, regardless of whether you are using marijuana for medicinal purposes or not. Still, it is the every day effects that the drug can impose on young people and the potentially long-term damage it can cause that is raising the most concern. Dr. Andra Smith (associate professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa), compared the brain activity of young adults who did not smoke pot regularly versus those who had smoked 1 joint per week in a 3+ year span. The study included people between the ages of 19 and 21 and used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results suggested that those who smoked pot regularly were showing increased brain activity while completing tasks specified to impulsivity, working memory, visual-spatial processing and sustained attention; though, “increased brain activity” actually meant that their brain was having to work harder and use more resources to respond correctly, as opposed to the individuals who did not smoke. [2]

While the jury is still out as to whether legalization will have significantly more negative effects on young people, recreational marijuana use can lead to daily dependence and worsen existing mental health issues. If your teen or someone you know is struggling with a substance abuse concern, we are here to help. At The Therapy Centre we have Clinical and Rehabilitation Psychologists as well as Social Workers on staff who specialize in alcohol, substance, and gambling addictions. Our clinics are located at Bronte Road and Dundas Street in Oakville and on Upper Wentworth Street in Hamilton. We also service clients living in Peel Region, Etobicoke, Halton Hills, Guelph-Wellington and the Greater Niagara Region.

[1] Saba, Rosa. (2018, September 4). Is pot dangerous for the teenage brain?. Maclean’s. Retrieved 2018, October 2 from

[2] Barton, Adriana. (2017, June 05). Your kid’s brain on pot: The real effects of marijuana on teens. Retrieved 2018, October 2 from

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