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Board Meeting Notes April 20, 2016

May 05, 2016
Board advocates for the strict regulation of marijuana
Board advocates for the strict regulation of marijuana

As the federal government inches closer to legalizing marijuana, the health unit is grappling with best ways to manage the potential harms from the substance.

A letter from the Simcoe Muskoka Board of Health to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urges the creation of strict regulations to control how it is grown, promoted, sold, distributed and used.

Injury and substance misuse manager Janice Greco outlined a series of known physical and mental health risks that stem from excessive use of cannabis products. In particular, she said, adolescents’ brains are going through stages of development that can be harmed by use of marijuana. Similarly, use during pregnancy can affect the baby’s behaviour, learning skills and cognitive functions. In all ages, regular use of this drug can also increase the risk of psychosis, depression and anxiety. Additionally, heavy smoking of marijuana leads to respiratory conditions, and there is evidence associating it with lung cancer.

Canada currently has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, Greco added.

A government monopoly on sales and minimum age for buying and using cannabis would help to control the overuse of cannabis products, she said. Other recommended measures included prohibiting marketing and sponsorships, developing cannabis-impaired driving laws, and broad education and prevention programs.

The same morning the Board of health discussed the issue, the federal government announced its intentions to legalize cannabis by 2017. However, with regulations yet to be developed, some board members expressed concern over the implications of the potential sale of cannabis in their local communities. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner acknowledged the complexity of the issue. While functioning in a regulatory void was not the best of situations, time would be needed to develop effective regulations that protect the public’s health.

More information on the health impact of cannabis can be found on the health unit’s website at http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Topics/DrugsAlcohol/Marijuana.aspx

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