Mayaz Alam reports on the differences and similarities by province and territory in the coming laws controlling the sale and use of cannabis following legalization on October 17, 2018.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

History, social studies, current events

Key Questions to Explore:

  • After October 17, 2018, what are the laws cannabis users need to be aware of in their province or territory? What is cannabis and what are the effects of its use?

New Terminology:

Recreational marijuana, cannabis, THC, edibles, psychoactive

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Recreational use of cannabis became legal on October 17, 2018, but its use will be highly regulated. The federal government has set overall guidelines for the production, sale, possession and legal age of users, but many of the details are being left to the provinces and territories.

Few students will be old enough to consume cannabis legally, but they need to be aware of the laws controlling its use, since many will soon be of legal age. This lesson focuses on federal laws, as well as the specific laws of their province or territory. Following a general discussion in class, students will use the article to complete a questionnaire.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a detailed discussion about the legalization of recreational cannabis. These questions/prompts can help to focus the discussion (answers, for your benefit, are in parentheses):

  • What are some names for the plant commonly known as marijuana? (cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, pot, weed, Mary Jane, smoke, reefer)
  • What does the cannabis plant look like—could someone draw a picture on the board? (see any pictures from the Internet)
  • We often see pictures of cannabis that look like greenish-brown lumps. What are these? (the flowering buds of the plant)
  • What parts of the plant are consumed, and how? (All parts except the stem can be ingested by smoking and by eating, after some preparation)
  • What is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis? (Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC)
  • What is the primary medicinal ingredient? Is it psychoactive? Why do some people consume it? (CBD or cannabidiol; by itself it is not psychoactive, and people most commonly consume it to control pain)
  • What are the psychoactive effects of cannabis consumption? (They range from the virtually unnoticeable, to feelings of euphoria and lightheadedness, to disorientation, to incapacitation; short-term memory loss is common)
  • Do the effects vary from user to user and from the type and quantity consumed? (the effects can vary significantly depending on, a) the percentage of THC in the cannabis—the higher the concentration, the greater the effect; b) the amount consumed—the greater the amount consumed, the greater the effect; c) the experience of the consumer—a long-time consumer may be far less affected than a first-time user)
  • Is cannabis addictive? (Not in the sense that applies to opiates, such as oxycontin or morphine, or to nicotine and alcohol. Although cannabis use can become habit-forming to the point where it appears to be addictive, there are no known physical withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped, unlike withdrawal from opiates)
  • Is cannabis a “gateway” drug? (There is no evidence to indicate that the use of cannabis leads to the consumption of other, harder, drugs, except by association—often several types of illegal drugs would be co-located with criminal drug dealers, which can provide a cannabis user access to other drugs)
  • How does the consumption of alcohol affect the effects of cannabis? (Even a small amount of alcohol can greatly enhance the effects of cannabis)
  • How is the consumption of edible cannabis different from smoking or vaping? (edible cannabis can take hours to take effect, whereas the effects from smoking or vaping are almost instant; unless the precise amount of psychoactive ingredient is known in advance, it is possible to consume far more than one might wish, leading to possible incapacitation and even hospitalization)
  • Can one overdose and die from cannabis consumption? (There have been no known deaths from the consumption of cannabis alone, but the effects of its use can exacerbate dangers related to other activities, such as driving a vehicle—which is illegal—or operating any equipment that can cause harm)
  • Why is cannabis being legalized? (The federal government claims that legalizing cannabis and controlling its production, distribution, and consumption will help to protect youth. As well, it was felt that existing cannabis laws were unduly harsh, leading many young people to acquire criminal records, which can affect their abilities to travel and hold certain kinds of jobs. As well, it is claimed that legalizing cannabis will reduce the power and reach of criminal organizations)
  • What are the laws pertaining to the legal use of cannabis in Canada? (See following worksheet).

Provide this worksheet:

You are to read the article and answer the following questions:

  • According to federal laws:
    • Who will license the companies that produce cannabis for consumption?
    • Will the sale of edible cannabis be legal?
    • Who will control the following issues: a) growing it at home; b) the age at which it can be legally purchased and consumed; c) where you can carry and use it?
  • In your province or territory:
    • Who is allowed to sell cannabis, and through which outlets?
    • Where is one allowed to smoke or vape cannabis?
    • At what age are you allowed to possess and use it?
    • What penalties apply for using it while operating a vehicle?
    • Are you allowed to grow cannabis, and if so, where and how many plants?
  • Review the laws for neighbouring territories and provinces which you plan to visit:
    • How do the laws differ from your own province or territory?
  • Finally, in your opinion, how much will legalization actually affect who sells cannabis, who uses it, where, and at what age? Give reasons for your answers.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss their final work on the questionnaire.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can explain the laws around the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis in their province or territory.

Confirming Activity:

  • Ask students to note media articles that contradict or support the goals of legalization—whether it curbs or promotes the use of cannabis; whether criminal activity is reduced or not; and whether users adhere to the laws regarding consumption, cultivation and possession.