Canadian government has overlooked public health in the face of cannabis wealth
On October 17, 2018 the government of Canada legalized and regulated the production,distribution, sale, import and export, and possession of cannabis for adults of legal age. Following such a move Canada became the first major industrialized country to provide legal and regulated access to cannabis for non-medical purposes, signalling a shift away from the reliance on prohibitive measures to deter cannabis use, and the adoption of an evidence-informed public health and public safety approach.
The Cannabis Act introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, was implementedwith three explicit policy objectives: (1) to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth (or reduce youth cannabis use); (2) to keep profits out of the pockets of criminals (or eliminate illicit cannabis markets); and (3) to protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis (or to improve overall public health and safety outcomes through legalization). There has been a marked increase in the number of cannabis users, and according to data from Statistics Canada, retail sales in 2021 were just over $3.5 billion, which represented a 125 % increase from 2019. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210421/dq210421c-eng.htm. A recent study reveals that the number of marijuana retail locations across Canada has increased more thantenfold since 2018. Cannabis is taxed in Canada as a legal consumer product attracting a federal excise duty and a provincial sales tax at point of sale. An old adage that runs thus” Money can make people behave funny” In this case it is the Canadian government that has overlooked public health at the expense of cannabis wealth.
While legalization has had a positive effect on the justice system, public health data is lacking, and there appears to be no real concern at this point. Rebecca Jesseman, the director of policy at the Canadian Centre on Substance Use, expressed concern that increases in rates of use, raises a bit of a warning sign in terms of public health, because they do not want to see an increase in consumers.
In 2019, the federal govenment expanded the menu of legal cannabis products available by allowing the sale of edibles and extracts Notwithstanding, in much of the available data,edibles are not accounted for, as they pose some difficult public health challenges compared to other cannabis products such as flowers and oils. One of the chief dangers is that it is much easier for people to take too much cannabis. Some provinces and territories have allowed edible products that closely resemble candy or baked goods when removed from their packaging, which can look appealing to children. Introduction of edible cannabis products to the legal market was accompanied by increased rates of accidental cannabis poisoning particularly among children.
However, the rates of cannabis poisonings in Quebec, which forbids the sale of most edible cannabis products, were considerably lower than in other provinces.
Our cultural attitudes towards marijuana and its usage have become extremely lackadaisical even as the potency of cannabis has grown and research on the harmful effects has become clearer. In 2022 the British Medical Journal reported that Canadian youth (aged 15–24) have the highest rates of cannabis use globally. There are increasing concerns about the adverse effects of cannabis use on youth physical and mental health https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/12/6/e061997.. The legalization of cannabis use and supply was implemented as a policy reform with specific objectives. Has cannabis legalization in Canada unequivocally produced all its intended benefits for public health compared to pre-legalization policies? There is suggestive evidence that presentations to emergency departments with psychoses and cannabis use disorders have increased since legalization
Undoubtedly, assessing the effects of cannabis legalization on public health outcomes associated with the policy reform is necessary and long overdue.
The clarion has been sounded if the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, then preparation is needed from now.The government may foc
s on the cannabis wealth but not neglect public health
Aleuta continua— The struggle continues.