Cannabis and youth

Effects on youth and the teen brain, how to talk to youth about cannabis, tips for parents.

Effects of cannabis on youth

Just because cannabis is legal for those over 19 years does not mean it is harmless. Like tobacco and alcohol, cannabis use can lead to negative health impacts. 

Cannabis affects the same biological system in the brain that is responsible for brain development. Youth and young adults are more likely to experience harms from cannabis because their brains develop until about age 25. The earlier a person starts consuming cannabis, the more harm it can do.

Starting cannabis use as a teen, consuming frequently (daily or near daily) and over a long time (several months or years) increases the risk of mental health problems. These problems include dependence/addiction and developing, or worsening disorders related to anxiety and depression. 

Addiction to cannabis may have major negative impacts on everyday life and affect school, relationships with family and friends, sports, extra- curricular activities, part-time work, and volunteer work.

Frequent use of cannabis over a long time can also harm important aspects of a person’s thinking, such a paying attention, remembering or learning things and making decisions.  Stopping use can help improve these deficits. However, some of these harms may persist for months or years or may not be fully reversible.

Talking about cannabis with youth

Many youth are curious about cannabis. There is no single reason why a young person might choose to use cannabis. Some of those reasons may include: 

  • To improve or intensify mood: “It’s exciting.”
  • To be social: “It helps me enjoy a party.”
  • To cope with stress: “It helps me forget about my problems.”
  • To fit in: “So I won’t feel left out.” 
  • To break with routine: “I use it because I feel bored.” 

It is important to invite open and honest conversations about cannabis early and often to provide accurate information before a young person needs to ask or brings it up. You may not be able to ‘prevent’ a teenager from trying cannabis, however, you can prepare them to make safe and knowledgeable choices for themselves.

Drug Free Kids Canada offers these tips for parents, grandparents, older siblings, guardians, trusted adults – or any other role as the older person in a conversation with youth, 

  • keep an open mind 
  • remember how you felt as a teen
  • go into the conversation with goals in mind
  • be calm and relaxed
  • be positive 
  • do not lecture, let them ask questions
  • find a comfortable setting
  • be aware of body language


Cannabis Talk Kit: Know How to Talk to Your Teen

Developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Parents: Talk about cannabis

Resources to help parents better understand cannabis in Canada, and how to talk to your youth about it from Health Canada

Test run the cannabis talk

Developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

What Parents/Guardians and Caregivers Need to Know

Developed by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (PDF)

Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines for Youth

Developed by the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Cannabis education in schools

In New Brunswick, topics relating to drug education, including cannabis, are addressed in an age-appropriate manner starting in kindergarten.  
The goal of a quality health education is to enable students to make well-informed, healthy choices and to develop behaviors that contribute to the well-being of self and others.  
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has always been proactive with its health-related curriculum. As part of the health curriculum, students receive clear, reliable, and accurate information to develop skills to make healthy choices in all areas of health.

Looking for help and support?

For anyone having a hard time with their mental health or cannabis consumption, there are resources and options that can help. 

CHIMO helpline

A provincial crisis phone line, accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to all residents of New Brunswick.

Bridge the gapp

If you are finding it difficult hard to cope or feel anxious, Bridge the gap offers many services to support your wellbeing.

Kids help line

Call 1-800-668-6868 or text 686868 for help