Canadian cannabis company funds digital tools to fight underage marijuana abuse


One of Canada’s largest cannabis companies, Canopy Growth, has partnered with drug awareness organizations to create digital tools aimed at curbing drug abuse among young people.

The cannabis company, based out of Smiths Falls, Ont., has partnered with Parent Action on Drugs and Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy to create an educational chatbot and text-messaging system that is meant to help youth, parents and educators talk frankly about cannabis use.

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According to Hilary Black, CAO of Canopy Growth, the partnership began two years ago before recreational cannabis use was legalized.

Black says the company understood that legalization would bring up concerns about the potential for young people to use and abuse the drug.

“We have a tremendous responsibility to make sure those who may be at risk when using the drug are not using it,” said Black.

This is why Canopy Growth offered two unrestricted grants to Parent Action on Drugs and Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy to create the digital programs launched on Tuesday.

One of the grants went to Dr. Jenna Valleriani, strategic adviser for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, who helped shape the educational material behind the digital programs through the Sensible Education toolkit, which offers evidence-based cannabis education guidelines geared towards youth.

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The second grant when to Parent Action on Drugs, which implemented the toolkit through the chatbot and text message program.

The chatbot can be found on the Parent Action on Drugs website and is aimed at engaging parents and youth to prevent early use and abuse of cannabis.

Jane McCarthy, manager of program development at Parent Action on Drugs, said the organization wanted to provide parents and youth with an interactive experience that would spark open and honest conversation about cannabis use.

The chatbot offers three different activities for those interested in chatting.

The first is a game of charades — when the term given is guessed, the bot spits out educational tips like the following: “Combining alcohol and weed can increase the effects of both drugs and the risk for alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly. Bottom line: alcohol and weed are a bad combo!”

The chatbot on the Parent Action on Drugs website allows parents to play interactive games with their children to help open up the conversation about cannabis.

Parent Action on Drugs

The other two games the chatbot offers are question-and-answer chats or scenario-based conversations, which are designed to facilitate conversations between those using the program.

The text-messaging system developed is geared toward young adults and teens from 15 to 21 years of age.

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It’s a compliment to the Parent Action on Drugs What’s with Weed? campaign, which encourages young people to ask themselves questions about cannabis use and consumption.

Those interested can go to the website and subscribe to the automated text messages, which will be then be delivered once a day for 54 days. The texts can include facts about how weed affects the body, cannabis laws, tips for reducing risks and safer use, questions to reflect upon cannabis use, alternative approaches to coping with stress and messages of support for cutting down or quitting.

According to McCarthy, the What’s with Weed? campaign is geared towards youth who use cannabis or those who may be concerned about their use but has also been broadened to appeal to anyone interested in learning more about cannabis use.

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Neither Canopy Growth nor Parent Action on Drugs would disclose the amount of funding given to support the digital education campaigns, but according to Joanne Brown, program director at the drug awareness organization, Canopy Growth gave a substantial amount of money that allowed the organization to develop a program she feels will really hit home with youth.

“Digital tools are expensive to develop,” said Brown. She added that if it weren’t for Canopy Growth’s involvement, the organization definitely wouldn’t have been able to develop digital tools with this level of sophistication.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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