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Feds to spend $100 million educating Canadians about cannabis

A professor at the University of Waterloo says one of the greatest challenges will be finding messages that resonate with their intended audiences
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Photo from The Canadian Press

Cannabis will become legal in this country in six weeks.

Health Canada has announced it will spend $100 million over the next six years on education.

A PhD professor of public health and health systems at the University of Waterloo says one of the greatest challenges will be finding messages that resonate with their intended audiences.

"It's pretty hard when you get a bunch of old people in government, or old academics like me, trying to talk to kids ... We can do a better job with like digital media and social media, in here's the message, now people who are experts in this, you go and figure out how to communicate it to kids." said David Hammond.

He says Colorado used innovative messages in their education campaign, adding cartoons and humorous messages were used to communicate with people.

Hammond adds while the youth will be the priority group of the campaign in Canada, there will be a big task to educate the rest of Canadians who will be legal consumers.

"The cannabis we have on the market is different from 1982, when Nancy Reagan was doing her thing. We have oils, vaporizers and edibles ... it's information about the risks and things like addiction, absolutely. It's also information about the market and if you're going to do it, this is what responsible use looks like, this is what problematic use looks like." he told The Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS.

Reagan, the wife of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was the face of the "Just Say No" campaign in that country.

"There is a difference if kids use it and it doesn't really matter what drug it is, if it's nicotine, alcohol or cannabis. At the period where brains are developing, we don't want kids using it ... if kids can delay the onset, especially if they can avoid regular use when they are younger, we have to get that message out there ... somehow the government has to figure out a way of being credible on that message." added Hammond.

A Health Canada social media campaign has been underway since last spring, and Public Safety began running a campaign on drug-impaired driving last fall.

There's also a cannabis health facts advertising campaign underway, launched last March, which aims to deliver "honest facts" to teens. This campaign features questions from the public and answers by cannabis experts, and can be found on the government's cannabis website. As recently as July, Health Canada launched an interactive engagement tour which targets youth and young adults and takes place at events like fairs, music festivals and sporting events.

Cannabis becomes legal in this country on October 17.

with files from The Canadian Press




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