Legalizing marijuana: what does it mean for Canadians?

Canada prepares for one-in-a-lifetime natural experiment

By Christine Bezruki

Faculty of Applied Health Sciences

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Canada will soon become the first G-20 country to legalize marijuana, but what will the new regulations mean for the health of Canadians?

On Monday, May 8, the School of Public Health and Health Systems will host the Hon. Anne McLellan, former minister of justice and head of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation for a public lecture on the topic.

“We are about to experience a once-in-a-lifetime natural experiment in substance use policy and the world is watching,” said David Hammond, an expert on drug policy and professor the School of Public Health and Health Systems. “Unfortunately, there is still a lot of public confusion around the risks and potential impacts to our health and economy.”

Current research suggests that the health risks of marijuana use are significantly less compared to alcohol and tobacco.

“In terms of public health, there is no justification for criminalizing marijuana when you can buy cigarettes at the corner store,” said Hammond, who will moderate a panel discussion following the lecture on Monday.

New legislation aims to protect public

Driving the Cannabis Act is the need to eliminate the illicit market, reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and set product standards to protect buyers.

“Let’s face it, the war on drugs has not been successful,” said Professor Hammond. “By regulating marijuana, Canada has an opportunity to set new standards that will ensure public safety and also free up resources in our justice system to address more serious issues.”

A new impaired driving bill will include three additional offences and give police authority to conduct saliva tests for drivers suspected of being high. Still on the table is how marijuana will be priced or taxed, and how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)— the active ingredient— should be allowed.

“It’s striking a fine balance between making the products strong enough that consumers will move away from the illicit market to purchase legal marijuana, while staying away from excessively potent strains,” said Hammond.

Like tobacco, the new legislation will include strict and comprehensive guidelines for marketing marijuana.

“We have strong, heavily regulated legal framework for the advertising and sale tobacco. That is what they are proposing for marijuana, although many of the details have yet to be announced,” said Hammond. 

Register for public lecture

The Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis – what does it all mean?

Date: May 8, 2017

Time: 2:30 p.m.

Location: AHS Expansion Building, Room 1689

Parking: Available in Lot M upon request.

Please register online in advance. The lecture marks the School of Public Health and Health Systems’ 40th anniversary.