Last revised: February 21, 2024

Cannabis is now legal in Canada for people 19 years of age and older in Ontario. It remains illegal for those under 19 in Ontario.

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 substances (drugs), like cannabis.

To help you support your teen through this time, here are some topics you may find helpful in getting started:

The Risks of Cannabis Use on Your Teen (Back to top)

Youth under the age of 25 are at a higher risk when using cannabis. Here are a few things to know to keep your teen safe and healthy:

Brain Development

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, decision-making, judgement and problem solving.

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 such as to cope with stress or mental health challenges. Check out the Have THAT Talk videos to learn about talking with your teen about mental health.


Regular use can lead to a cannabis use disorder or dependence. The risk for dependence is higher for persons who use regularly. Using cannabis as a teen can increase the chance of becoming dependent. If you develop a dependence it will be hard to cut back or stop using. It can cause unpleasant feelings like:

  • Feeling irritable or anxious,
  • Having an upset stomach,
  • Trouble sleeping,
  • Loss of appetite and
  • Sweating.

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

Impaired Driving

Cannabis impairs the skills everyone needs to drive safely, like judgement, quick response time, attention and coordination. Driving impaired could hurt you, your teen or other people on the roads.

There is a zero tolerance law for impaired driving for anyone aged 21 or under, a novice driver, or a commercial driver. This means that anyone 21 years or under cannot have any cannabis in their system. Nobody should use cannabis and drive.

Instead, plan a safe ride with a friend, use OC Transpo, Lyft, Uber, or a taxi

For more information, visit

Your Influence as a Parent (Back to top)

You have a bigger influence on your teen than you may think! Your own choice to use substances (drugs) can affect your teen’s decisions about using or trying substances (drugs). Show them substance (drug) free ways to have fun or to cope with stress. You are a role model for your teen! The best thing you can do is avoid using around your teen.

Keep your home safe from 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.

Secure your substances (drugs)

Underage youth report getting substances (drugs), like alcohol and prescription opioids, from home. If you are planning to have cannabis in your home, please make sure you keep it in a safe and secure space. Watch for missing medication and check them regularly.


Build opportunities for sharing and talking with your teen by planning one-on-one time and spending quality time together.

Be open to listen to what your teen has to say. This includes having critical conversations on substances (drugs), including cannabis.

Set clear expectations

Set realistic limits for curfews. Discuss 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. Follow through with consequences and give positive feedback when agreed upon rules are respected. 

Start the Conversation (Back to top)

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 that you may find helpful:

Respect that your child is an expert in their own culture.

Ask your child to teach you about their world. Avoid approaching your child with anger, shame, judgement or panic because your efforts may be counter-productive. They may be less likely to be receptive to your message. This will help to make you more approachable when they are running into difficult times and need someone to talk to. Praise positive behaviour and show interest in your teen's life. 

Stay informed.

Get the facts about cannabis (e.g., the affects and the rules and regulations). Know their friends, where they hang out, and if there are other parent/adults present, etc.

Find the right time.

Find a time when the setting is calm to have an open conversation. To start the conversation, use a reputable reference from a newspaper article or website (Ottawa Public Health, Health Canada, and Ontario Government) about substances (drugs). 

Listen to your child.

The best way to talk to youth about drug use is to listen to them and keep an open mind.

  • Ask them what they know about cannabis and other drugs. What have they heard, seen, or learned?
  • Ask what concerns, worries or questions they may have on 'what is happening'.
  • Ask your teen about the kinds of concerns and cautions youth are sharing with each other about substances (drugs) and safety. What steps does your teen and their peers take to keep each other safe?

Emphasize your deep caring and commitment to understand.

  • Avoid focusing on 'setting them straight’. If you already spoke to your child about substances (drugs) then they probably already know that you disapprove of substance use. Lecturing more will most likely lead to your child shutting down, tuning you out, or getting angry. It could also lead to them thinking that you may disapprove of them, instead of their actions, which can lead to shame and in turn, more substance use.

Be open, supportive and involved.

Signs of Cannabis Use (Back to top)

Don’t hesitate to get help if using cannabis is affecting you or your child's life. There are places to go to if you need help managing your use or if you have withdrawal symptoms.

Signs your teen may need help with cannabis or other substance (drug) use include:

  • Ignoring responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Giving up activities that they find important or enjoyable.
  • Using the substance (drug) more often.
  • Feeling unable to cut down or manage your 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 is a problem.

Your Teen is Using or Wants to Use (Back to top)

The teen years are a time when your teen may choose to use substances (drugs), like cannabis. Help your teen reflect on why they are using and turn it in to a learning opportunity.

Know the Laws (Back to top)

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 substances (drugs) to a minor (someone who is under the legal age). For example, it is illegal to share cannabis with anyone who is under 19 years of age.

See what Ottawa Police Services have to Say!

See some regulations provided by ByLaw below:

For more information visit or

Where to go for Help (Back to top)

All Ottawa high schools have addiction counsellors available through the Ottawa Catholic School Board (for English OCSB schools), Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services School Based Program (for English OCDSB schools), 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 substance (drug) use.

See what your children are learning on cannabis in schools!

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. 

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