A30-E Risks of Cannabis

Long term effects on children and teens

Two young children playing attentively with a multicolor wooden bead roller coaster

Maternal cannabis use has been linked to effects on children’s brain development, behaviour and mental health. The effects of cannabis use during pregnancy are more common among children of heavier users:

In Infancy:

  • Decreased ability to self-soothe along with exaggerated startles
  • Sleep disturbances

By age 3-6 years:

  • Poorer memory and verbal reasoning skills
  • Less attentive, easily distracted and more impulsive

By age 6-10 years:

  • Hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention
  • More difficulty making decisions
  • More difficulty learning
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety

By age 14-16 years:

  • Reduced school performance
  • Delinquency problems
  • Continued hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention
  • More likely to start trying and using cannabis earlier

As a result of exposure to cannabis during pregnancy a child may have difficulties with learning, behaviour and mental health in later life.

If you are unable to stop using cannabis completely, try using less and less often.

Parenting and cannabis

There are many things to consider as a parent.

Second-hand cannabis smoke:
Smoke is harmful for all of us, especially during pregnancy, for babies and young children. Second-hand cannabis smoke may result in illness in infants and young children. It can also affect their alertness, understanding and judgement.

It is best not to smoke or vapourize cannabis in your home or around your baby or young children. For more information on second-hand tobacco smoke go to www.pregnets.org/mothers/SecondHand.aspx.

Safe storage:
It is important that children do not eat cannabis. It can make them very sick. Children can accidentally eat brownies or cookies made with cannabis. Keep cannabis products in child-resistant packaging. Store all cannabis products in a locked area. Make sure children cannot see or reach the locked area.

When children accidentally eat cannabis they may look fine at first. The reaction to the drug may not be immediate but show effects much later.

If you think your child ate cannabis, get medical help right away. Call the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017 or seek medical attention right away.

Call 911 immediately if your child seems ill, has difficulty breathing or if you are worried for other reasons.

A magnifying glass in front of cannabis buds. There is a note saying do you know what’s in your cannabis

Food safety hazard:
There are risks in edible cannabis products because when growing and processing cannabis it is exposed to molds, bacteria, heavy metals and pesticides.

This is a food safety concern. These concerns apply to cannabis that you buy either legally or illegally. Even if legal, and even if grown organically, the industry of foods containing cannabis is not regulated.


Until there is better regulation, and inspection of the cannabis industry, it may be risky to buy and use food products containing cannabis.

Being high while parenting:
Being high while parenting can affect how you interact with your child. You may miss your baby’s/child’s cues for hunger, to be comforted, or to play and learn. Being attentive to your baby/child is important to their development.

Being high while parenting can also affect your ability to judge, to make good decisions and to protect your child from danger. Feeling more relaxed and mellow can result in having a slower reaction time and reduce your ability to attend to your child. The effects of cannabis can last for several hours.

Be sure that there is always someone available who is not high to take care of your child’s needs. Make the most of your relationship with your child. It is through relationships with you, and other adults that your child learns to trust, learn and thrive.