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#Talkditruth: Future Come First - NCDA’s National Ganja Public Education Strategy

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham

Recognising the negative impact that ganja smoking was having on the youth population, the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) is rolling out a national public education strategy, specifically targeting the younger population.

The multi-tier programme will provide user-friendly information aimed at addressing ganja use among youth under the age of 18. It will also seek to simplify what decriminalisation of ganja now means and the limitations allowed under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 (also referred to as the Ganja Reform Law), which was passed into law in February and took effect on April 15.

As outlined by NCDA:

- The personal use of marijuana is now decriminalised, but there has been much public discussion about the implications of the new legislation and much misinformation surrounding its provisions.

-NCDA has been charged with the responsibility to develop a full-scale public education campaign to bring clarity to the law and the issues surrounding it, including the critical difference between decriminalisation and legalisation.

- In particular, certain populations, such as the youth, persons with mental illness, pregnant women and other vulnerable populations will be sensitised to the possible negative effects of marijuana smoking on their health.

- The goal of the campaign is to provide the general public and specific stakeholders with user-friendly information about amendments to the Act and the parameters of the law.

- The campaign specifically aims to delay the onset of ganja use among youth (under age 18), as well as delay the use of ganja by the youth population overall.

- The campaign will seek to: educate the public and stakeholders on the boundaries of the legislation; outline individual rights and liabilities under the Act; outline NCDA's role in supporting and protecting the vulnerable population.

 The campaign will also seek to increase stakeholder involvement in design and implementation of prevention programming.

- Youth will be given a special focus in order to delay their initiation into smoking and provide them with healthy lifestyle options. This will take the form of a separately targeted mass and social media campaign utilising special edutainment strategies. This component is the #Talkditruth: Future Come First campaign.

- The development of the youth-based campaign was prefaced by consultation with over 80 adolescents islandwide. These included a wide range of categories, such as student leaders, adolescents at a high risk for ganja use, as well as known ganja smokers.

- These adolescents freely shared their experiences and perspectives on the messages they have received, family and societal influences, as well as their recommendations for the development of a ganja campaign that is likely to resonate with youth.

- An analysis by the NCDA shows that between 2006 and 2011, 47 per cent of clients admitted for treatment and rehabilitation were for issues associated with marijuana/ganja use.

- Ganja was the main drug of impact for which clients sought treatment at all drug treatment centres islandwide in 2013, OAS/CICAD/NCDA.

- Over 95 per cent of the adolescents referred from schools and/or through their family network to NCDA offices for counselling were for problems associated with marijuana/ganja use.