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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Assessing the effect of recreational cannabis legalization on perceived norms of cannabis use in youth Sanchez, Tatiana Alejandra


Cannabis and alcohol are the most commonly used substances by youth worldwide. Adolescence and young adulthood are critical periods of drug and alcohol experimentation, with 29% of Canadian adolescents, and 54% of young adults reporting lifetime cannabis use. Social norms of substance use – how individuals perceive other members of their group to think and act – influence youth consumption of alcohol and cannabis. Perceived norms of substance use are predictive of engaging in future substance use, levels of use, and trajectories of use. Perceived norms of substance use are also thought to be impacted by contextual factors, such as public policy. The Canadian government legalized adult recreational cannabis use on October 17th, 2018. This study examined whether the change in drug policy had an effect on the perceived social norms of cannabis use, which could potentially change the cannabis use patterns of youth. High school students reported higher peer approval of their cannabis use after legalization, but no change in perceived peer or parental prevalence of cannabis use, or parental approval of their cannabis use. Undergraduate female students reported an increase in peer approval of their cannabis use, while male students showed no change. Cannabis-using undergraduate students showed no effect of legalization on parental cannabis use, while cannabis non-users reported decreased parental cannabis use.

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