The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) has released a new study that offers a detailed look at the youth perspective on cannabis.

Building on a 2013 report on the same subject, CCSA developed Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis to gain a better understanding of the kinds of conversations that are taking place about marijuana every day in schools, at home and in the community.

Among the key findings is that young people think marijuana is neither addictive nor harmful, and that it affects individuals differently. Some youth “self-prescribe” marijuana for stress and mental health management, such as for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, as well as for relaxation purposes. And, while they have a preference for messaging about marijuana that is based on the evidence, the Internet, media, enforcement practices and government’s intention to legalize it are important influences on the views of young people about marijuana.

Other key findings of the study include:

Participants identified peers, family, the availability of marijuana and the belief that marijuana is acceptable as influencing their decision to use it.

Some participants were also influenced by their beliefs in the medical, physical and mental health benefits of marijuana.

Participants thought that the effects of marijuana are based on the person and his or her attitudes, rather than the substance itself, a rationale that provides youth an opportunity to selectively decide when it is safe or harmful to use marijuana.

Most youth felt that long-term, frequent marijuana users were subject to negative health effects, whereas recreational users were not.

Many young people believe marijuana is less impairing than alcohol when it comes to driving, but recognize that using it before driving can slow reaction time and affect other skills needed to safely operate a vehicle.

Although many youth want facts about marijuana, the study found that they have difficulty navigating through conflicting messages, resulting in confusion, false beliefs and the likelihood that youth will rely on friends, drug dealers or personal experiences to form their opinions.