Ontario’s cannabis legislation should incorporate public health principles: says CMHA Ontario

In April 2017, the federal government introduced the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), with the goal of legalizing cannabis across Canada by July 2018. Though legalization enjoys broad support, 51 per cent, among
Canadians, it also presents Ontario’s public health with significant challenges and opportunities.

Do Ontarians, youth in particular, understand the associated potential health risks? How are we going to regulate THC and CBD levels in cannabis products? What should the government do with cannabis
revenue?

As part of the public consultation process, the Ministry of the Attorney General requested the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario to provide recommendations. Listed below are key
considerations Ontario’s cannabis legislation should strongly consider:

  • Cannabis-related revenue should fund mental health and addictions services, public awareness campaigns, research and enforcement.
  • Mental health and addiction education for those that distribute cannabis to consumers through a Cannabis Card program, like Ontario’s Smart Serve program.
  • Enhanced access to mental health and addictions treatment, specifically for youth and heavycannabis users.
  • Zero tolerance for cannabis use by drivers and passengers in motorized vehicles.
  • The minimum age to purchase cannabis should be 19, the same as the drinking age in Ontario.
  • Strict rules on advertising and marketing cannabis products, like current restrictions on tobacco products.
  • Cannabis laws be consistent with existing legislation, such as the Liquor License Act and the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

“The risk is that legalization of cannabis may lead to an increase in use among Ontarians,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “When taken together our recommendations can minimize the
harms associated with cannabis use and support a public health approach to this issue.”

Cannabis legalization and regulation present Ontarians with a real opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue about mental health and addictions. By framing legislation and discussion through a public
health lens, we can limit potential harms. For more information please read CMHA Ontario’s ‘Cannabis Legalization and Regulation’ report