CPHA – A Public Health Approach to the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Cannabis
Cannabis use is illegal in Canada, yet 12% of the general population, 21% of youth aged 15-19 years, and 30% of young adults aged 20 to 24 years have reported past-year use. It is often viewed as having little effect on the person or society, but its use is associated with negative health outcomes, while criminal charges from its use could have social and economic consequences. The analysis of this use is limited, though, as the available data concerning the effects of cannabis on the person or society come from studies with specific target populations, limited sample size, and restricted timeframes, thereby making its interpretation challenging.
Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, will legalize and regulate access to cannabis in Canada. The intent of the legislation and regulation is to provide a public health framework that should reduce the likelihood of negative health outcomes and the potential effects resulting from criminalization. Bill C-45 also proposes changes to the impaired driving laws with the purpose of more severely punishing those who drive while under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. Furthermore, the 2017 Federal Budget provided funding to support public education programs and surveillance activities related to cannabis use. The Canadian Public Health Association commends the federal government for this important step in developing a public health approach to addressing cannabis use in Canada. The Association also recognizes that additional steps are required to develop and implement a public health perspective.