Kids kill pot buzz

With apologies to The Who, the kids may not be alright with this.

A series of 24 focus groups on perceptions of marijuana legalization commissioned by the federal Liberal government found that the youngest teenaged participants were the most cautious about the policy shift.

The government has been laying the groundwork for months on a major public education and awareness campaign that will accompany the looming legalization of recreational marijuana.

Health Canada commissioned a series of focus group surveys last June to plumb public perceptions around legalized cannabis, including the health impacts and attitudes to drug-impaired driving.

According to Earnscliffe Strategy Group, which won the $136,000 research contract in March, an "overwhelming majority" of focus group participants in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax were aware of the promised end to pot prohibition and that "most, particularly those over the age of 18, were generally comfortable with the idea."

The notable outliers among the focus groups were 13- to 15-year-olds — and in some cases their parents.

"The one audience that held slightly less positive views about the legalization of marijuana were youths 13-15," says the report, noting some were "not at all familiar with marijuana."

The focus groups were heavily weighted toward younger Canadians, using six distinct cohorts. Three cohorts covered ages 13-15, 16-18 and 19-24, while another two involved parents of younger and older teenagers. Only one group in each city included general participants aged 25 and up.

The youngest participants struggled to identify advantages perceived by older participants — perceptions that included economic benefits from taxing the product, standardized and reliable marijuana quality, an end to black-market activity and reduced strain on police and the court system from marijuana possession charges.

The 13-to-15 year olds — and some of their parents — were also the most skeptical about perceptions on limiting marijuana accessibility. By contrast, most participants felt legalized pot would not increase either cannabis usage or accessibility for youngsters.

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