Youth-Led Development of Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines for Individuals Aged 13 To 18: A Pathway to Better Mental Health and Wellness

Funding body

CIHR Catalyst Grant: Cannabis and Mental Health & the Mental Health Commission of Canada.


Among Canadian youth, rates of cannabis use are increasing and the age at which youth first try cannabis is decreasing. At the same time, a growing body of literature highlights early initiation, chronic use, heavy use, misuse among inexperienced users, and multiple forms and modes of cannabis consumption as key moderators of cannabis use.

In Canada, the best guidelines available for safer cannabis use come from lower risk cannabis use guidelines for adults. However, due to the prohibition against cannabis use among youth under the age of 18 in Canada, few guidelines relate to reducing harms for them specifically. The overall goal of this project has been to engage youth affiliated with the Victoria Youth Clinic Society in dialogue about Canada’s adult-focused low risk cannabis guidelines, seek their advice about how to adjust the guidelines to better meet the needs and concerns of their age cohort and survey youth in the broader population about the draft guidelines.

To this end, this study is employing a participatory and action-oriented program design that prioritizes lived experience. We aim to build capacity among youth who use cannabis by supporting them to develop critical research experiences and giving them opportunities to work as research associates on this project.

Youth engagement has been organized around 11 working group (WG) meetings that inform the design, implementation, and interpretation of results from three primary activities: (1) a quantitative survey to identify life course and event-level factors associated with positive and negative experiences using cannabis, (2) an evaluation of the acceptability and appropriateness of implementing existing adult-focused lower risk cannabis use guidelines for youth, and (3) preliminary lower risk cannabis use guidelines for youth based on results of a systematic review of existing guidelines for cannabis use, preliminary results from the quantitative survey and in-depth consultations with youth who use cannabis.

Progress to date

A report has been completed and can be viewed here.

A peer-reviewed article has been published and can be viewed here: A second paper is underway for a special issue in the International Journal of Drug Policy, Special Section Youth and Young Adult Cannabis Research – Critical Approaches to Advancing the Field.

The team submitted an application for a Health Research BC REACH Grant, to undertake a second phase of this work - to develop and implement a youth-led knowledge translation (KT) strategy, designed for broad dissemination of the Guidelines. This second phase, partnered with Foundry BC’s Central Office, aims to mobilize the Guidelines at provincial, national, and international levels to promote youth-oriented harm reduction guidelines.