Demand for commercial real estate is up as Canada moves closer towards the legalization of marijuana. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS) The federal government has promised to legalize recreational marijuana later this year under Bill C-45, which is expected to go to a final vote in the upper house Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Legal pot not a public health or safety threat

The report from Canadian doctors and researchers was submitted to the Senate this week

There’s little evidence that legalized marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety, and there may be benefits, says a new study from Canadian doctors and researchers.

The report, submitted to the Senate this week, outlines the positive and negative impacts legalization has had in other jurisdictions.

“It hasn’t been a public health disaster or crisis yet, but there are some key areas that we need to watch,” said Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health specialist at the University of Calgary and one of the report’s authors.

The federal government has promised to legalize recreational marijuana later this year under Bill C-45, which is expected to go to a final vote in the upper house Thursday.

Dr. M.J. Milloy with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use worked on the study and said researchers did not find significant declines in road safety in American states where marijuana had been legalized, but they did find a drop in alcohol sales.

They also found that rates of fatal opioid overdoses went down in some places.

“There is evidence to suggest that when legal cannabis is available, people substitute that for other substances,” he said.

“We are hopeful that we might see some of the same benefits here.”

B.C. declared a public health emergency because of overdose deaths in April 2016. The provincial coroner’s service has said there were more than 1,400 fatal overdoses across B.C. last year.

The Senate report also outlines 28 indicators to watch for as Canada legalizes marijuana, grouped under the themes of public safety, cannabis use trends, other substance use trends, cardiovascular and respiratory health, and mental health and cognition.

The indicators include instances of cannabis-impaired driving, rates of use among youth and the number of marijuana-related calls to poison control centres.

Watching those areas will be key to determining if marijuana policy has been a success, said Haines-Saah.

It’s possible some of the negative indicators will see an uptick, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that legal pot is having a detrimental affect, said Haines-Saah.

She noted that some American jurisdictions have reported increases in cannabis-related calls to poison control centres following legalization.

Those incidents may have been happening previously, too, but parents were too scared to call because the drug was illegal, Haines-Saah said.

It’s important to look at the broad picture instead of specific instances, she said.

“I think we’ll see more people reporting use and harms in the first few years, but that doesn’t mean they’re real harms. It just means that reporting bias has been removed because of the stigma.”

Data about many of the suggested indicators is already being collected by various levels of government, and researchers or statisticians can use that to look at the impact of changes to marijuana policy, Milloy said.

Legalization is a “fundamental change” and decisions about public health need to be informed by scientific evidence, he added

“We really think that closely monitoring and evaluating the possible impact of cannabis legalization on public health is key.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Trail cleanup begins at Scout Island Nature Centre after flood waters recede in Williams Lake

More cleanup work will continue in the coming weeks and months as water levels continue to go down

It’s a go: Williams Lake Garden Club prepares for summer garden tour

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some measures are in place for this year’s garden tour

B.C. First Nation owned solar farm connected to the grid

Construction was completed by the Tsilhqot’in Nation last year

CRD library to offer curbside pick up in Williams Lake beginning June 9

Due to COVID-19 the library has been closed to the public since March 17

Williams Lake mayor, doctors, tourism, chamber to provide updates at June tailgate event

A maximum of 30 vehicles can attend, event will be livestreamed

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Williams Lake Tribune continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Most Read