Cannabis a class act
CHILDREN are experimenting with cannabis before they leave primary school because they are not being educated about the drug early enough, a forum in Lismore heard yesterday.
The forum, held at the Lismore Workers Club, was one of only two held in regional NSW as part of an effort to form a national strategy on ways to deal with cannabis.
About 40 people, ranging from health and education experts to parents and cannabis reform campaigners, attended the two-hour forum, which was chaired by University of NSW Professor Richard Mattick.
The core call of the people, whether arguing for or against cannabis, was for more research to be done on what cannabis did to people.
One person warned that those trying to educate teens about cannabis were undermined by their own information.
"You have to put yourself into the mind of an 18 to 21year-old. What you're telling them is nonsense," he said.
"If you give a message to school kids you have to make sure you're getting it right. If you say it will make you mad, and then it turns out that you are wrong, they'll just think you're bullshitting them."
An educator at the forum, who did not give her name, said that children in primary school were particularly vulnerable, because the school curriculum offered no chance to specifically warn them about the potential risks.
"They have cannabis education at secondary school, but at primary school they don't," she said. "So you have young people that might take it up in Year 7 and they have had nothing to warn them."
A parent at the forum said her son started smoking cannabis 10 years ago, when he was 13. He was now addicted.
"He seems to have surren- dered to a life of dependency," she said.
"He's 23 and he has $15,000 in fines, and he can't get his licence until 2016. Every time he goes to court they give him another $1000 fine.
"He needed help ... he lived in his car. He was dysfunctional. He didn't think about things (he needed to do), because if you have 40 cones a day you don't think about things."
Prof Mattick said a draft of the strategy was expected to be completed by May.
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