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Youth Cannabis Awareness Program

The Youth Cannabis Awareness Program (YCAP) offers free programming to youth aged 12 to 24, as well as adults (parents/guardians and professionals) involved in the lives of youth. Informed by protective factors contributing to youth mental health, YCAP provides a multi-faceted approach to increase knowledge and skills supporting positive youth development.

YCAP takes a harm reduction approach and does not make value judgments regarding recreational cannabis use. The program aims to minimize risks associated with cannabis use by providing youth, and adults involved in youth’s lives, with the most accurate and unbiased information.

YCAP is a free national education prevention initiative funded through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program and delivered by YMCA of Greater Toronto across Canada.

Did You Know?

Youth have the highest prevalence of cannabis use in Canada. Cannabis use during adolescence increases the lifetime risk of developing a substance use disorder and may amplify existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and psychosis. It can also trigger functional and structural changes to the developing brain, which can influence memory, concentration, thinking, learning, handling emotions and decision-making. The stigma associated with youth cannabis use may also prevent some youth from seeking support.

Heavy handed, fear-based messaging and abstinence-only approaches have been ineffective at preventing problematic cannabis use and cannabis-related harms to youth. Providing a non-judgmental environment where young people can learn and talk about the facts related to cannabis use, supported by a trained facilitator, has proven to be more effective at reducing harms. This approach has been effective for youth who are at different points along the spectrum of cannabis use. Youth, parent, school and community engagement that incorporates a harm-reduction lens helps provide additional protective factors for positive youth development.

Supporting Healthy Youth Development

YCAP’s work in the community supporting healthy youth development includes:

  • Awareness Raising Activities:
    Educational programming in French and English for youth ages 12 to 24, as well as adults involved in youth’s lives. Content of workshops/webinars are developmentally appropriate and interactive. Activities can be booked individually or as part of a series. Book a workshop
  • Youth Engagement Projects:
    Adult-youth partnerships creating positive change through the development of youth initiatives, promoting youth expression and community action related to youth cannabis use.
  • Youth for Youth Digital Media Contest:
    An annual peer-to-peer youth engagement initiative empowering youth between the ages 15 to 24 to raise awareness about youth and cannabis use through a media competition. Learn more
  • Community Involvement Projects:
    Events planned and implemented in collaboration with local organizations to promote community awareness and involvement in issues related to youth cannabis use.
  • Parent Engagement Initiatives:
    Projects addressing parenting skills relating to cannabis use prevention, and the knowledge and strategies to promote active, collaborative and non-judgmental dialogue between parents and youth.
  • School Engagement Initiatives:
    Supporting schools with implementing initiatives that create a supportive environment for youth. Community bonds contribute to the prevention of risky behaviours among youth and school plays an important role in mediating the ties and friendships amongst peers and their parents.
  • Youth Cannabis Knowledge Hub:
    An online hub for youth, young adults, parents, and professionals providing evidence-based information and resources in English and French, including self-guided educational modules about recreational cannabis use. The hub aims to increase knowledge and skills related to reducing the harms of cannabis use and preventing problematic use. Learn more
  • Youth Cannabis Awareness Partnership Committee:
    Representing a group of professionals with a common interest to advance the domain of professional practice in the cannabis awareness field by networking, learning and knowledge sharing, providing fresh insights, collaboration and stimulating innovation around youth cannabis awareness. To join YCAP’s partnership committee in your province, connect with YCAP’s Education and Awareness Coordinator in your province.
  • Youth Advisory council:
    The YCAP Youth Advisory Council is a national advisory council of youth who represent Canada's youth voice and perspective pertaining to the YCAP initiative and its prevention education programming. Youth members engage in leadership opportunities related to reducing the harms of youth cannabis use across the country. Contact us to learn more and join YCAP’s Youth Advisory Council.

Help and Support

YCAP provides participants with information and referral to treatment services and other community support services/resources available for cannabis problematic use. By making this information available, individuals who might require such help gain awareness of resources without the need to disclose in front of their peers.

Learn more

Get Involved with YCAP!

To book a workshop, access a youth engagement opportunity, join YCAP’s Youth Advisory Council or partnership committee, collaborate on a community project, or any general inquiries, please contact ycap@ymcagta.org or connect with YCAP’s Education and Awareness Coordinator in your province

Book a Workshop/Webinar

YCAP offers in-person or virtual workshops/webinars in French and English for youth ages 12-24 as well as adults, parents and professionals. Content of youth workshops/webinars are developmentally appropriate, interactive and respond to Ministry of Education’s expectations. YCAP workshops/webinars are targeted to four age groups:

  • Ages 12-14
  • Ages 15-18
  • Ages 19-24
  • Adults (parents and professionals involved in young people’s lives)

The duration of a workshop/webinar can be scheduled to accommodate class/group times.

YCAP workshops/webinar options include:

  • Cannabis 101: This webinar/workshop explores important facts around cannabis legislation relevant to youth and provides evidence-based information on the potential health and social implications of cannabis use for youth while questioning misconceptions and myths about this substance.
  • Impact of Cannabis Use on the Teenage Brain: The human brain continues its development until the age of 25. During this period, teenagers and young adults go through a time of rapid growth and exploration and become more unique through different personal experiences that shape their understanding of the world and discovery of who they are. Risky behaviors such as using cannabis can have permanent harmful effects on the developing brain when use (regular and heavy use) begins in adolescence. Negative effects of cannabis use during teenage years include difficulty with thinking, decision making and maintaining attention and problems with memory and learning. This workshop/webinar examines how a youth brain functions and develops, while demonstrating how cannabis use at a young age can affect the brain and the processes of myelination and synaptic pruning. In addition, signs of problem cannabis use and harm reduction strategies are discussed.

  • Mental Health Literacy and Cannabis Use: Mental Health Literacy workshop/webinar explores awareness to our stress response cycle (situation, thoughts, emotions, behaviors) in relation to self-care, copying strategies and mental health in general and the potential risks of cannabis use as a copying strategy in this process in particular.
  • Youth & Cannabis Use: Landscape in Canada (Designed for parents, educators and adults involved in youths’ lives): This webinar/workshop extracts findings from recent Canadian national surveys and addresses FAQs such as:
    • Do youth use cannabis in Canada?
    • How do youths’ cannabis use differ from adults’ demographics?
    • How does cannabis use compare with use of other substances (i.e alcohol, tobacco) amongst youth in Canada?
    • How has legalization of cannabis impacted youth in Canada?
    • Does initiating use at a younger age increase the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use?
    • What are potential harms of cannabis use during adolescence?

    Providing balanced and evidence based information about the new cannabis landscape for youth, this webinar provides parents, adults and professionals involved in young people’s lives with resources supporting an open dialogue with youth, helping youth with their informed decision making process about cannabis use.

To book a free workshop please fill out the workshop request form below or contact the Education and Awareness Coordinator in your province.