Pubdate: Wed, 11 May 2016
Source: Packet & Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Orillia Packet and Times
Author: Patrick Bales
Page: 1


Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Calls on PM to Keep Tight Grip on 
Legal Marijuana

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has sent a letter to Prime 
Minister Justin Trudeau, hoping to spark up a conversation about the 
pending legalization of marijuana.

The local health unit is the latest to call for strict regulations 
controlling how legal marijuana is grown, promoted, sold, distributed and used.

Janice Greco, the health unit's injury and substance misuse manager, 
said the government needs to take a public health approach to 
cannabis legalization.

That encompasses everything from pricing controls to regulations on 
how marijuana products can be marketed. Of the utmost importance, the 
health unit stressed, was to have a government monopoly on sales and 
a minimum age for buying and using cannabis.

"What that means, essentially, is a number of strict regulations that 
will allow for reduction of harms once legalization occurs," Greco 
said. "By doing that, by putting some or all of those things in 
place, you're going to have a more balanced approach to legalization 
where the potential harms are minimized."

If you're thinking those ideas sound strikingly familiar to the way 
alcohol and tobacco have been regulated in Canada, you're on the 
right track. Greco and her colleagues at the health unit and other 
health organizations, such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental 
Health, have based their recommendations on the research done with 
alcohol and tobacco availability.

At a recent board meeting, Greco shared with the health unit some of 
the reasons these regulations are needed. She outlined known physical 
and mental health risks stemming from excessive use of cannabis. She 
focused not only on young people, detailing adverse affects on 
adolescents and babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy, but also 
risk of psychosis, depression and anxiety in people of all ages.

Just like the other recommendations the health unit provides to the 
public and different levels of government, the proposals are based in 
evidence and best practices, Greco said. They're the factors the 
health unit wants to ensure the feds are addressing and paying 
attention to as the legalization process progresses.

And those regulations could be advantageous to the consumer, as they 
should provide people with the confidence in knowing what they are 
paying for, making cannabis safer for a nation that has one of the 
highest consumption rates in the world.

Yet, the health unit is aware of the risks possessed by either too 
many or too few marijuana regulations, as cannabis' prohibition comes 
to an end.

"That's the dicey part. Something like pricing -- how do you price it 
so that people aren't going to continue to go to the black market and 
purchase?" Greco said. "The government is aware that all of these 
policy levers have significant implications and they're very complex.

"There are no easy answers here," she added.

That's part of the reason the health unit continues to lobby the 
government to act in the interest of public health, even though some 
levels of government, seemingly, haven't been all that open to 
suggestions lately. Greco "would be lying" if she claimed to be happy 
with the province's modernization of its liquor laws, for example.

However, neither she nor the health unit is deterred.

"Our board of health is very proactive in voicing evidence-based 
advocacy on these items," Greco said. "What the government chooses to 
do with our advocacy is out of our hands ... but I applaud our board 
of health for continuing to step up to the plate and continue to 
advocate for what we know to be evidence-based policy approaches."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom