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GVSD Substance Use Philosophy and Goals
The Greater Victoria School District is committed to providing safe and healthy learning environments for all students. As part of our approach, we have been focusing on mental health and substance use topics to help us promote well-being in our schools.

Substance use is a complex topic that often highlights varied philosophies, myths, and a great deal of fear. The research shows us that early interventions, particularly around critical thinking and decision making, has an impact on delaying use in youth. As well, open dialogue with adults, intentionality around attachment, and a focus on the factors that contribute to substance use, as opposed to the actual substances, also prevent, delay and reduce substance use in our students.

Our goal is to create a more cohesive, systematized substance use plan focusing on social emotional learning, that includes our youth and schools, community partners, and families. We strive for a shared vision, common language and consistent messaging over time, in order to support positive youth culture and a healthy perspective on substance use and mental health.
What is Marijuana?
"Cannabis” is the scientific name for the hemp plant, and its leaves and flowers (often called marijuana) contain hundreds of chemical substances, and over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids affect cell receptors in the brain and body, as they contain a psychoactive resin that can affect how users feel, think and act. 
THC is the most researched cannabinoid and is responsible for the way the brain and body respond to cannabis, including the high and intoxication.  The potency of the THC in cannabis is often shown as a percentage of THC by weight, and has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980’s to around 15% today, with some strains averaging as high as 30% THC. CBD is another cannabinoid, and is responsible for many of the plant's physical effects and has been used to treat anxiety, pain, inflammation, insomnia, nausea and epilepsy.  Products will be labeled with THC and CBD percentages -  the higher the percentage, the more potent the product.

 There are two main cannabis species:  cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.  "Sativas" tend to have a more energizing and cerebral effect when used recreationally, whereas "indicas" tend to have more sedative and physical effects.  There are different strains of both plans, and hybrid plants that are genetic crosses of both.

Other slang terms for cannabis include:  pot, bud, wax, erri, purp, keef, dope, honeycomb, herb, resin, trees, boom, weed, mary jane, ganja, skunk, shatter, budder, gangster, dank or dank krippy.  These terms are different across cultures, communities and social groups and change continuously.
What are the different forms of Marijuana?


 Fresh or dried material


Flowers & leaves from cannabis plant


Up to 30%




Cannabis Oil
Cannabis extract dissolved in oil - can be used to make other forms (e.g. edibles).
 Up to 80%




Chemically concentrated extracts (i.e. hash, oil/ shatter/ budder/wax)
 Highly concentrated cannabis extract dissolved in petroleum-based solvent.
Up to 90%




Physically concentrated extracts (i.e. hash/ kief)
Loose plant parts or pressed resin from plan
 Up to 60%





Food & drinks containing extracts of cannabis
Variable, depending on amount of extract added





Smoking: joints, pipes, bongs, blunts

Eating or drinking:  teas, sodas, cannabis oil, baked good, gummies

Vaping:  liquid or dried cannabis vapors in vaping device

Dabbing:  breathing very hot vapours from heating cannabis concentrates
What are the Short and Long Term Health Effects of Marijuana?
Effects can be felt within seconds to minutes of smoking, vaporizing or dabbing marijuana. These effects can last up to 24 hours.  By ingesting or drinking cannabis, effects can occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours and last up to 24 hours.

Cannabis can be both beneficial and harmful to health.  For instance, research shows that cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions such as pain, nausea and muscle spasms. Use can also be associated with psychotic symptoms and respiratory issues.
Short term effects (often include): euphoria, sense of well-being, relaxation, heightened sensory experiences, confusion, sleepiness, impaired concentration, heightened anxiety.
Short term effects (may include):  paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure.
Long term effects (develop gradually over time, with daily or weekly use that continues over weeks, months or years):  increased risk of addiction, harm to memory, difficulties with concentration and ability to think and make decisions.
Early use in adolescence and frequency of use appears to worsen effects and may not be totally reversible.
What are the implications of  Marijuana legalization on October 17th?
1. No person can sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 19.

2. Adults over 18 can legally possess up to 30 grams of legal dried cannabis or equivalent, share up to 30 grams with other adults, purchase products from a provincially licensed retailer, grow up to 4 plants for personal use and make cannabis products provided organic solvents are not used.


Chief Medical Health Officer Recommendations:  Buffer Zones for Cannabis Retail and Schools

1.  Buffer zones precluding cannabis retail should be established around schools.
2.  Buffer zones around schools to protect youth well-being are recommended to be a minimum of 300 meters and preferable 600 meters
3.  All proposed cannabis retail within 600 meters and on major school transportation routes should be referred to school districts for consultation.


It is important to note, that while cannabis use for youth is currently illegal and will continue to be so, current research reflects that 1 in 5 teens aged 15 and 19 have used cannabis in the past year (Stats Canada 2016).  Therefore, harm reduction strategies are an important element in discussions around cannabis use.


Be clear about why you want to use. What are the positive and negative potential consequences?

Be sure you trust your source.  If it is an unregulated source, it is more likely to include contaminants like mold and mildew.

Try a small amount to test the strength.  THC levels can vary greatly. 


Avoid cannabis smoke if possible.  Cannabis smoke contains tar and toxins - it is safer to use a vaporizer.

Leave tobacco out of the mix, as tobacco contains many cancer causing toxins.

When eating or drinking cannabis, start with a small amount to guage concentration.


Using regularly before 25 years old (the human brain is not fully developed yet).

Using cannabis daily or almost daily (regular habitual use can lead to dependence).

Using cannabis with alcohol (effects of both are intensified, and judgment is increasingly compromised).

Using cannabis when you are at risk of a mental health concern (cannabis use may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms for  those with a pre-existing vulnerability).

Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis use Guidelines:
(Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health)

1.  Cannabis use has health risks best avoided by abstaining.
2.  Delay taking up cannabis use until later in life.
3.  Identify and choose lower-risk cannabis products.
4.  Don't use synthetic cannabinoids.
5.  Avoid smoking burnt cannabis - choose safer ways of using.
6.  If you smoke cannabis, avoid harmful smoking practices.
7.  Limit and reduce how often you use cannabis.
8.  Don't use and drive, or operate other machinery.
9.  Avoid cannabis use altogether if you are at risk for mental health problems or pregnant.
10.  Avoid combing these risks.






1.  Avoid, Delay, Reduce Use
2.  Don‘t Use Alone
3.  Carry Naloxone, if around       Opioids: 
Toward the Heart