City holding cannabis info sessions for parents


Trying to figure out how to navigate cannabis legalization with your tween or teenager? Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is holding eight information sessions starting this week specifically for parents.

The drug becomes legal in Ontario this Wednesday, and the city’s public health agency is bringing together officials from the four school boards, Ottawa police, the city’s bylaw department and Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services to talk about what to expect.

The discussion will include a general chat about what cannabis is, what it does and how it’s consumed, how to reduce risks, an outline of federal and provincial cannabis legislation, what’s legal and what’s not, how it will be enforced (especially on the roads), what resources are available in schools, and more.

The first OPH session for parents, which is in French, takes place Monday at Collège catholique Franco-Ouest on Seyton Drive from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The second session, in English, takes place Thursday at St. Paul Catholic High School on Draper Avenue from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Marino Francispillai, the program manager of school, community and mental health and wellness at OPH, said by phone that they’re trying to get across four main points to youths:

  1. “If you’re not using, don’t start, because even though it’s legal, it’s not safe.”
  2. “If you’re thinking of using, we’re saying delay your use … because we know that brain development continues into your mid-20s and you still have changes in structure and function that are caused by cannabis use while the brain is developing. We also know that there is more risk of mental illness being triggered as well as an increased risk of dependence and addictions with youth that start using cannabis in their adolescence.”
  3. “If you’re using, we’re offering the information on how to reduce your risk … basically ideas like if you’re going to use it, try not to smoke it … start slow and go low in terms of how much you’re using.”
  4. “And if you’re ready to stop, there’s help. In Ottawa we’re lucky that we have a lot of services in place … at different points in the system to make sure youth have access to be able to get support to stop using.”

While the sessions are best suited to parents of tweens and teens, parents of children in elementary school are welcome as well, Francispillai said.

The other English sessions each start at 7 p.m.: Oct. 23 at Earl of March Secondary School, Nov. 1 at Saint Peter Catholic High School and Nov. 6 at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School.

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