Cannabis (Marijuana)

 The teen years are a time for major changes, both physically and emotionally. They are also a time when your teen may choose to use drugs, like cannabis.

Supporting teens through this is challenging. To help you, we have prepared: 

  • Information about cannabis 
  • Tips on discussing drug use and mental health with your teen
  • A list of local resources

 Frequently Asked Questions

Will cannabis be legal for teens?
After October 17, 2018, Cannabis will remain illegal for those under 19 in Ontario. For more information visit or
How does using cannabis affect my teen?
The younger someone is when they start using cannabis and the more often they use, the more likely they are to experience harms.


The brain develops into young adulthood. Using cannabis while the brain is developing can cause changes to the brain’s structure and function. These changes may permanently effect memory, concentration, intelligence, and the ability to think and make decisions.

Not using cannabis or delaying use as long as possible is the best way for teens to keep their brain healthy and reach their full potential. 

Mental Illness

Early and frequent cannabis use as a teen can increase the likelihood of experiencing psychosis and schizophrenia, especially if there is already a family history.

Teens may use cannabis for a variety of reasons, including to cope with stress or mental health problems. Check out the Have THAT Talk videos to learn about talking with your teen about mental health.


Cannabis is addictive. Using cannabis as a teen can increase the chance of becoming dependent.

If you are concerned about your teens cannabis use, there are places you can turn to for help. Find out about the School Based Program here

Does using cannabis impair driving like alcohol does?
Cannabis impairs the skills everyone needs to drive safely, like judgement, quick response time, attention and coordination. Nobody should use cannabis if they are planning to drive.
What can I do as a parent to prevent my child from using drugs? 

There are many things you can do as a parent to prevent your teen from trying or using drugs – start these tips early, use them often and remember to be open with your child.

1)    Be engaged – develop a quality parent-teen relationship through being involved in their day-to-day lives and participate together in activities they enjoy, be supportive, give praise, show you care and help build your teen’s self-confidence.

2)    Communicate – build opportunities for sharing and talking by planning one-on-one time, spending quality time together and be open to listen to what your teen has to say. This includes having critical conversations on drugs including cannabis.

3)    Be in the know – open communication is essential to parental monitoring – know their friends, where they hang out, is there other parent/adults present, etc.

4)    Set clear expectations – set realistic limits for curfews including acceptable and not acceptable behaviours. This is an opportunity to involve your teen in making the rules and consequences to ensure they agree and know what is expected of them. Always follow through with consequences and acknowledge when rules are followed.

5)    Be a role model – your own choice to use drugs will affect your teen’s decisions about using or trying drugs. It is best not to use cannabis or other drugs in front of your children/teens. Don’t show them that using drugs is a way to have fun or to cope with stress.

6)    Know the law – the minimum legal age in Ontario for alcohol, cannabis and tobacco is 19 years of age. Minimum age laws are in place to protect the health and safety of young people. There are different penalties for providing these drugs to a minor (someone who is under the legal age). If your teen approaches you or an older sibling to supply them with cannabis, it is an opportunity to have an open discussion to find out why they want to use and what could they do instead of using. 

How can I talk with my teen about cannabis?

Download the Cannabis Talk Kit for free

You are your teen’s first line of defence against drugs. Start the conversation about drugs early, be open, and talk often. There is no perfect way to have the conversation, but here are some tips to help you:

  • Respect that your child is an expert in their own culture. Invite them to teach you about their world. Praise positive behaviour and show interest in your teen's life.  This will help to make you more approachable when they are running into diffi­cult times and need someone to talk to.
  • Stay informed. You can use an external reference like social media, a newspaper article or TV show about drugs to start a conversation with your teen.
  • Ask about what concerns, worries or questions that they have about 'what is happening'. Ask questions, then listen. The best way to talk to youth about drug use is to listen to them.
  • Ask them to teach you more about cannabis and other drugs they know about. Invite them to tell you what they're hearing, seeing or have learned.
  • Ask your teen about the kinds of concerns and cautions youth are sharing with other youth about drugs and safety. Ask them about what steps youth are taking to keep each other safe.
  • Ask them what it is like to be talking to you about this.
  • Speak from your heart. Focus on your heartfelt concerns for their safety and a deep regard for their wellness.
  • Emphasize your deep caring, commitment to understand. Instead of 'setting them straight’.
  • Be open, supportive and involved.

How can I be a role model for my teen?

You have a bigger influence on your teen than you may think. If you are using cannabis around your teen, you may be influencing their choice to try/use cannabis. The best thing you can do is avoid using around your teen.

How can I keep my home safe for my teen?

It is good to be aware of how using cannabis can effect those around you.

Lung Health & Second-hand Smoke

Cannabis smoke has many of the same cancer causing chemicals as tobacco smoke. The smoke can affect the health of the person who is smoking cannabis and the people around them. If you are planning to use cannabis, avoid using smoked forms and choose lower-risk products.

Not smoking is the best thing you can do to protect your teen from second-hand smoke.

Keep it up. Keep it safe.

Underage youth report getting drugs, like alcohol and prescription opioids, from home. If you are planning to have cannabis in your home, make sure you keep it in a safe and secure space and check back regularly.

My teen is already using cannabis. What should I do?

  • The teen years are a time when your teen may choose to use drugs, like cannabis. Help your teen reflect on why they are using and turn it in to a learning opportunity.
  • Talk to them about the Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.
  • If you are concerned about your teen’s cannabis use, there are places you can turn for help.
  • See the list of local resources.
What are the signs and symptoms of cannabis or other drug use?

Signs your teen may need help with cannabis or other drug use:

  • Ignoring responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Giving up activities that you find important or enjoyable.
  • Using more often.
  • Feeling unable to cut down or control use.
  • Changes in mood (e.g., feeling irritable and paranoid).
  • Changing friends.
  • Having difficulties with family members.
  • Being secretive or dishonest.
  • Changing sleep habits, appetite, or other behaviors. 

Some signs of a cannabis problem can look like typical youth behaviour. Talk to your child and find out if there’s a problem. 

Where can I go for help?

All Ottawa high schools have addiction counsellors available through the Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services School Based Program (for English school boards), and Maison fraternité (for French school boards). 

You can contact your teen’s school for information on referrals if you are concerned about your teen’s cannabis, alcohol, or any other drug use.

For more information, check out these articles and resources

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, there are places where you can turn to. Visit the Ottawa Public Health website for a list of local resources.






Contact Us