For a group of Queen’s marketing students, a class project about cannabis awareness has become an educational campaign across classrooms in Kingston.
Under the name Project Flux, the students have created an Instagram account that tells the story of a fictionalized high school girl named Rachael who uses marijuana. The campaign, dubbed “We all know a Rachael,” targets high school students as their primary audience.
Project Flux consists of Anton Tsyhanok, Sci ’18, Lisa Xiong, ArtSci ’18, Safa Majeed, ArtSci ’18, Delyth Phan, ArtSci ’18 and Stefan Negus, ArtSci ’18. Phan and Xiong told The Journal about their team’s goal and campaign efforts in a recent interview.
The campaign originated out of their marketing fundamentals class and is meant to encourage informed decisions about cannabis use. Project Flux has since visited classrooms in the Kingston area to educate students about the risks associated with cannabis.
To Project Flux, a judgement-free approach was important. They believe their campaign is meant to arm students with important information without telling them exactly what to do.
“What our campaign focused on was not, ‘Cannabis is bad for you, don’t smoke it, don’t consume it,’ but more, ‘If you do, this is what could happen,’” Xiong said.
After some preliminary presentations in several high school classrooms, the group has been invited to speak to students by other teachers in the area.
“I think that’s when it hit us that we were onto something — that we had potential, and it wasn’t just a project anymore,” Phan said.
Other teams who participated in the project are the Disjointed team and the Legit Services team, both of whom take diversified approaches towards cannabis awareness.
Given the imminent legalization of marijuana on July 1, both the students and their professors feel these kinds of campaigns are vital to ensure youth are making educated decisions about whether or not to use cannabis.
The challenge originated from a joint effort between Smith School of Business professor John Pliniussen, who teaches the marketing class, and School of Medicine professor and psychiatrist, Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde. Ayonrinde is also the director of the HeadsUp! Program at Hotel Dieu Hospital, which is a program that provides psychosis intervention treatment to youth.
Pliniussen believes this kind of inter-faculty collaboration allows for multi-disciplinary action that could potentially help teens and families nationwide. He said the projects are now being tested in high schools to pinpoint areas of strength and improvement.
“This type of active learning, to apply skills to a real-world situation to help people, [it’s] a win-win,” Pliniussen said. “We need to do more of it — and we absolutely will.”
Ayonrinde said in an interview with The Journal that education is vital in ensuring young people are making informed decisions about usage.
A major component of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is psychoactive. According to Ayonrinde, young people need to be aware of the THC content in the cannabis they use. THC content in marijuana has also increased substantially — about 10 per cent — over the past few decades.
Among a variety of effects, THC can trigger psychosis, dependent on factors such as age, frequency of use and family history.
“You don’t want to wait for that sort of knowledge when you’re in uni, we really want to get people [informed] a lot younger,” Ayonrinde said. “We’re strongly encouraging better cannabis literacy so that if people do use, they use it in an informed way, thereby minimizing the risks.”
“That’s a really important message. Cannabis literacy should be for everyone.”