Health unit readies for Cannabis Act
By Jenn Watt
Published May 11, 2017
The local health unit intends to stay the course when it comes to educating youth about the risks of marijuana use.
Chronic disease and injury prevention managers from Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit met with staff from 29 other health units across the province to draft recommendations for the government’s task force last August, said Denise Smith, the substance misuse prevention and harm reduction co-ordinator.
The federal government announced last month that it intends to legalize the drug no later than July of 2018, subject to parliamentary approval and Royal Assent.
Part of the rationale for legalization is to reduce organized crime and to make buying marijuana more difficult, in the same way that tobacco regulations impose greater obstacles for buyers.
Smith said the health unit expects to see “evidence-based health promotion and protection principles” in the final bill and was “pleased to see the focus on protecting youth.”
The Cannabis Act regulates the production, distribution, sale and possession of the drug and makes it legal to have small amounts of marijuana. However, it also makes it a criminal offence to sell pot to a minor.
The Canadian Medical Association released a statement April 13 that urged the government to keep health top-of-mind as they work to legalize the drug.
“For physicians, the key is how we can best mitigate the very real health risks, particularly in relation to youth,” said Dr. Granger Avery, CMA president, in the release.
Smith said the health unit already does education with young people about the risks of drugs and alcohol.
“[The message is] that all substances have effects and harms and they need to educate themselves to avoid or reduce risks to their health (such as harmful effects on brain development and potential increased risk of other substance use and addiction), risk of injuries (such as injuries to themselves and others caused by impaired driving) and serious consequences of impairment (such as poor decision-making leading to problems in families, with school and contact with the law enforcement),” she said.
Focusing on improving young people’s self-esteem is also part of the strategy.
The greater the person’s resiliency, Smith said, the better decision making.