Think back to the last time you saw a drug education program – it more than likely told you about the dangers of trying marijuana or other drugs with a common theme of not to do them. However, with the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada on October 17th, Health Canada has decided to switch gears on how to educate teens about cannabis. They’re also planning on moving away from traditional advertising; most teens won’t care about a black and white pamphlet handed to them.

Reworking the education

“Inevitably, that communication and education is going to be more nuanced and subtle,” David Hammond, a professor in the school of public health at the University of Waterloo told CityNews.

Hammond said the government has taken on a “harm reduction” approach when it comes to educating about the use of pot. What that means is, instead of saying “Hey, don’t consume this,” the messages point out that there are circumstances where it should be avoided.

Health Canada has said that they kicked off a handful of public education campaigns and has put dollars behind the campaigns to ensure that they’re seen. Also, a social media campaign has been ongoing since last spring, and Public Safety began running a campaign on drug-impaired driving last fall.

Read More: Learning More About Public Safety Canada’s Don’t Drive High Campaign

Last March, a cannabis health facts advertising campaign was launched and is currently still running. The objective of the campaign is to provide “honest facts” to teens. You can find it on the government’s website. An interactive engagement tour targeting teens and young adults hit the road to attend events like fairs, music festivals and sporting events in hopes of further educating.

The department has said that the cost of cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance will be more than $100 million over six years. That figure includes $62.5 million over five years, which was pitched as a part of the federal budget last year to help community organizations and Indigenous groups that are teaching their communities about the risks of marijuana.

Hammond stated that not enough time has passed to see how the campaigns are working, but stated Health Canada is trying. He suggested the old tried-and-true black-and-white pamphlet will not be carried in the backpacks of teens.

“You’re going to see that some of these campaigns are going to fall on their face and some of them will do quite well, but they’ll all contribute to the discussion and that’s a good thing.”

Parents need to connect with their kids

Marc Paris, executive director of Drug Free Kids Canada, said a lot of parents have been “keeping their head in the sand” about the entire situation, not accepting what is about to happen — that marijuana will soon be legal.

“First thing we say to parents is that talking to your kids about drugs is not one conversation, it’s an ongoing conversation.” That means having parents ask their kids what they would say if someone offered them a joint at a party.

Read More: Fighting Teen Drug Use Through Innovation With Drug Free Kids Canada

Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said she would like to see more education before legalization happens.

“If I’m a young person and I’m just going about my life and I’m not really aware about politics, I’m not concerned about marijuana being legalized. Everybody’s already smoking it, so I might not know of the harms. I might not understand there’s a test being put in place for impaired drug driving and how that might impact me. I might not be aware of the changes that we might expect.”

How to talk to your teen

Drug Free Kids Canada has created a “Cannabis Talk Kit” to aid you in your discussions with your teen. You can find sections that include facts about cannabis, including what it is, why it’s risky for teens, how to talk to your teen about it, what words to avoid using, etc. It also includes how to respond to your teen’s questions and arguments, as well as other resources.

In the ‘what to say’ section, an example of your teen asking, “Marijuana is a plant. It’s natural. How harmful could it be?” – the kit provides many answers including “Not all plants are necessarily healthy or good for you—think about cocaine or heroin or even poison ivy.” By using this answer, you’ll help your teen rethink their point.

You can find the full kit for download here.