Sign In

Protecting health of Canadians must be job one for federal marijuana legislation

Ottawa, April 13, 2017 – The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is stressing that the federal government's move to legalize marijuana must focus first and foremost on protecting Canadians and reducing any potential harms to health, something the government has rightly identified as a top priority in the move to legalize marijuana.

The CMA has reached out to federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott to emphasize how we can work together to ensure a strong public health approach accompanies Canada's move to legalize marijuana.

"There are myriad issues around the legalization of marijuana but for physicians, the key is how we can best mitigate the very real health risks, particularly in relation to youth," said Dr. Granger Avery, the CMA president. "The federal government has indicated that they consider this a priority and the CMA will insist on effective public health education and measures to minimize the negative impact on youth and all Canadians."

The CMA reiterated its longstanding concerns about the health risks associated with consuming marijuana to the Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation in a submission last August. The submission highlighted the particular risk to children and youth given their brain is undergoing rapid, extensive development.

The CMA has recommended a broad public health policy approach that would focus on preventing drug abuse and dependence; ensuring the availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those who wish to stop using; and harm reduction to increase the safety for those who are using. The CMA also recommends enhanced monitoring, surveillance and research of marijuana use to better understand the short and long-term harms to help develop policy options to address prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

With the legalization of marijuana now on the horizon, the CMA reaffirms its recommendation that maintaining a separate regulatory framework for medical use of marijuana is not necessary. The CMA looks forward to working with government to eliminate this framework as soon as possible.