A thought-provoking education campaign called Weed Myths and launched Monday by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program aims to shed much-needed light on misconceptions surrounding marijuana use.
A recent national study shows that Canadian youth are the top users of cannabis in the developed world, with one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old reporting daily or almost daily use of the substance.
The report, titled What Canadian Youth Think about Cannabis and produced by The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, also states that youth between the ages of 14 and 19 years old feel that weed is “much safer than alcohol and tobacco” and is “not as dangerous as drunk driving.”
Perceptions among Canadian youth such as driving while high is harmless are extremely dangerous. Data collected by the National Fatality Database between 2000 and 2010 reveals that cannabis was the most common illicit drug present among fatally injured drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 years old.
That’s why this new attention-grabbing awareness Weed Myths campaign has been developed and funded by both the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia (MHFNS) and Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program (NSEPP). The campaign features graphic bus shelter posters and print advertisements across Halifax Regional Municipality, along with engaging photos and videos for social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.
“We are incredibly proud of our partnership with Dr. Philip Tibbo and the NSEPP,” says Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia president and CEO Starr Dobson. “We know mental illness typically strikes between the ages of 16 and 24, and cannabis can have negative effects, both short- and long term-, on mental wellness when used regularly at this age. This message couldn’t be better targeted or more necessary.”
In fact, Canadian youth helped create the Weed Myths campaign, offering feedback on how the promotional materials look, how to target people in their own age group and how to focus messages so that they have an impact on their audience, ultimately reducing harm-associated with cannabis use.
“Regular cannabis use in the emerging adult is not benign. A public health approach is needed to educate youth so that they themselves can make informed decisions,” says Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program director Dr. Phil Tibbo.
“This campaign is unique as not only was there a great partnership between the MHFNS, NSEPP and creative team at Kohoot, but its relevance comes from the direct input and direction from the youth themselves,” he says. “We have focused on two of the more common myths of cannabis use in this age group, but there are more.”
Twenty-one per cent of 18- and 19-year-olds reported riding with a driver who had used cannabis in the What Canadian Youth Think about Cannabis study.
“When most citizens think of impaired driving, they automatically think of driving while under the influence of alcohol – but what they may not realize is that impaired driving also means driving while under the influence of any drug, such as cannabis,” says Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association (NSPCA) president Chief Peter McIsaac.
“And whether it is drug or alcohol related, impaired driving poses extreme dangers and carries the same criminal penalties, including loss of driver’s licence, a criminal record, fines, jail time and more,” he says. “When a motorist drives impaired, it’s a decision that not only puts their own lives and the lives of others on the road at risk, but one that can have a lasting impact on friends, family and loved ones.”
This important new Weed Myths campaign targets youth between 16 and 20 years old to let them know that driving while high is harmful – not harmless – and emphasize the many other negative mental and physical consequences of cannabis use.
Visit www.weedmyths.ca to learn more, go to the Weed Myths YouTube channel to watch the videos and email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.