CANNABIS in Canada

Policy - - Be­fore The Bell | From The Ed­i­tor - Cannabis in Canada BY DALE SMITH

Whether or not you’re sud­denly con­sum­ing mar­i­juana as of one sec­ond past mid­night on Oc­to­ber 17th, the le­gal­iza­tion of weed in Canada will af­fect your life. On the eve of cannabis le­gal­iza­tion, Sixth Es­tate’s Spot­light se­ries dis­cussed the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the change, and what Cana­di­ans should re­al­is­ti­cally ex­pect and pre­pare for. Host Cather­ine Clark was joined by a panel of ex­perts and stake­hold­ers, led off by Nik Nanos, chair­man of Nanos Re­search, who pre­sented polling on le­gal­iza­tion com­mis­sioned by the Cana­dian Cen­tre on Sub­stance Use and Ad­dic­tion (CCSA).

The Nanos re­search shows that most peo­ple are con­cerned about peo­ple driv­ing while im­paired and the neg­a­tive im­pacts of le­gal­iza­tion on youth. He found that 27 per cent of Cana­di­ans felt they were knowl­edge­able about the health ef­fects of cannabis and 57 per cent felt they were some­what knowl­edge­able, and that those un­der 35 years of age were more likely to self-re­port they felt knowl­edge­able.

“When only about 25 per cent of Cana­di­ans self-re­port be­ing knowl­edge­able, it

shouldn’t be a sur­prise that ed­u­cat­ing youth has a sig­nif­i­cant level of trac­tion,” said Nanos of the re­sults.

Nanos added that 52 per cent of Cana­di­ans feel con­fi­dent in know­ing the ef­fects of cannabis on driv­ing, and that while 47 per cent of Cana­di­ans have ad­mit­ted to try­ing it (an­other seven per cent ad­mit to us­ing it oc­ca­sion­ally and three per cent call them­selves fre­quent users), some 62 per cent of Cana­di­ans say they don’t plan to use it once it is le­gal­ized.

“I would ex­pect this num­ber to change,” said Nanos. “It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what the pace or ve­loc­ity of change might be on this par­tic­u­lar ques­tion.”

Dr. Mark Ware, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer with the Smiths Falls-based med­i­cal mar­i­juana com­pany Canopy Growth, is the for­mer di­rec­tor of clin­i­cal re­search at the MUHC Pain Man­age­ment Unit in Mon­treal. Ware, who served as the vice-chair of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s le­gal­iza­tion task force, said he’s been in­ter­ested in

cannabis as a way to deal with chronic pain for more than 20 years.

“The task force opened my eyes to pub­lic pol­icy, and re­al­iz­ing the im­pacts that the pol­icy has had on cannabis use pat­terns, crim­i­nal­iza­tion and so­cial jus­tice is­sues,” said tare. “At the cusp of le­gal­iza­tion, f see it less as a point in time than as part of a very long process that has been go­ing on for some time.”

tare said that the process will be a jour­ney over the com­ing decades, and that he looked for­ward to work­ing with cannabis as a le­gal sub­stance.

Re­becca Jesse­man, di­rec­tor of pol­icy with the CCSA, said that her or­ga­ni­za­tion is look­ing at le­gal­iza­tion from a pub­lic health stand­point, which means hav­ing a ro­bust reg­u­la­tory frame­work, in­vest­ing in pre­ven­tion, hav­ing treat­ment ser­vices avail­able for those who have prob­lem­atic use, and mon­i­tor­ing the im­pact.

“ft is go­ing to be a work in progress,” said Jesse­man. “te have the op­por­tu­nity and the chal­lenge of a nat­u­ral ex­per­i­ment in Canada where the reg­u­la­tions vary in ev­ery prov­ince and ter­ri­tory, so we’re in a unique po­si­tion as pol­icy re­searchers to be able to look at what’s work­ing in which con­text, and to es­tab­lish best prac­tices in or­der to lead the world in terms of reg­u­la­tion.”

tare said that be­cause there will be a greater abil­ity to as­sess tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol (TeC, the prin­ci­pal psy­choac­tive con­stituent of cannabis) lev­els and where cannabis is com­ing from, it will be eas­ier to mea­sure risks go­ing for­ward be­cause bet­ter data can be col­lected from use.

Jesse­man added that pol­icy mak­ers should be more proac­tive than just wait­ing for re­search on cannabis use, and should draw from re­search on other sub­stances like al­co­hol, and tools such as min­i­mum pric­ing to curb prob­lem­atic use.

“te know about how to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate mes­sages about re­spon­si­ble use,” said Jesse­man. “te’ve learned from the to­bacco cam­paigns, from the im­paired driv­ing cam­paigns, so ap­ply­ing those les­sons to cannabis is some­thing we can and should be do­ing right now.”

kanos said that ed­u­ca­tors should also take the time to have the dis­cus­sion about ed­i­bles and con­sum­ables be­fore they are avail­able on the mar­ket, given that there is al­ready so­cial stigma around smok­ing. tare added that there isn’t a sim­ple unit of mea­sure­ment for cannabis use, WHICH WILL MAKE IT MORE DIF­fi­CULT TO HAVE SEN­SI­ble con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing the ed­u­ca­tion process.

Jesse­man said that point of sale in­for­ma­tion will also be very im­por­tant for com­mu­ni­cat­ing and ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic, in­clud­ing through prod­uct pack­ag­ing.

Left to Right: Host Cather­ine Clark, Dr. Mark Ware, Re­becca Jesse­man, Nik Nanos. Source: Sixth Es­tate

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