Some students ahead of the curve on cannabis risk reduction, says St. F.X. prof

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As universities across Canada prepare for the legalization of cannabis this fall, one psychology professor says her research shows some students already have ideas to mitigate the potential risks of marijuana use.

Kara Thompson is a psychology professor at St. Francis Xavier University who has studied cannabis.

She said she conducted focus groups last spring with students who use cannabis, and found they had strategies in place to reduce the potential risks.


Thompson says universities are wading into 'uncharted territory' with the looming legalization of cannabis this fall, and it will be important to help students make informed choices. (St. F.X. University)

Those included avoiding highly concentrated THC products like shatter, being careful with edibles and not mixing cannabis with alcohol.

Students also commonly said they didn't use cannabis until after their responsibilities were taken care of, and that they avoided using it to cope with anxiety or bad moods, Thompson said.

"[They had] really great ideas about how to maximize their benefits of using cannabis without experiencing some of the harms we're concerned about."

'Wading through uncharted territory'

Thompson said university campuses across Canada are "wading through uncharted territory" with cannabis, and it's important to help students make informed decisions about using it.

"I think we will probably see some more students experimenting with it, but more than that, it's probably just going to be more visible," she said.

 "It's going to be a bit of an experiment this first year, but we're really doing our best … to make sure we're equipped with the knowledge and education that we can share with students to ensure their safety." 

'Relatively low' risk from occasional use


'It's probably just going to be more visible. We'll probably see it around a lot more and more people talking about it,' Thompson says.

Students live and study together on campus, so using cannabis might impact other students, Thompson said.

"We want to make sure we're respecting both students who choose to use and students who choose not to use in this environment."

But she said changing trends mean it's not as black and white as dividing a student population into those who smoke cannabis and those who don't.

"The reality is people use cannabis in a lot of different ways," she said. "Our research shows for young people who use really occasionally, like once a month or maybe a few times a year, the risk of consequences from that is really relatively low."

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