Pubdate: Wed, 22 Nov 2017
Source: Metro (Edmonton, CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Metro Canada
Author: Kevin Maimann
Page: A1


U of A prof calls misinformation about pot 'alarming'

In light of the Alberta government announcing its regulations for the
retail sale of marijuana, Metro spoke with a public health expert
Tuesday to clarify some hazy topics around legalization.

Elaine Hyshka, professor in the University of Alberta's school of
public health and co-chair of the Minister's Opioid Emergency Response
Commission, said it's "alarming" how much misinformation circulates on
cannabis, and she helped us bust the myths.

Myth #1: Legalization will lead to a spike in cannabis use among young

"What we've seen in other jurisdictions is that rates of use have
remained fairly stable post-legalization," Hyshka said.

"Also, it's important to remember that in Canada we have one of the
highest rates of youth use and cannabis is illegal. So, whether it's
legal or illegal, that often doesn't tend to have a lot of influence
over whether people decide to use drugs. When it is legal, though, we
have a lot more policy tools to prevent harm from those drugs."

Myth #2: Legalization will lead to a spike in impaired driving

"Data from the United States where jurisdictions have legalized is
showing that although there may have been a slight increase in motor
vehicle collisions related to cannabis, the rate of fatal crashes has
not gone up in those states relative to controls that don't have legal
cannabis," Hyshka said, referring to a study published in the American
Journal of Public Health that tracked collisions in Colorado and Washington.

Myth #3: Cannabis is rife with health benefits

"There are people that claim it is a panacea for every health
condition and part of a wellness strategy. That is certainly not well
established at all in science," she said, adding there is strong
evidence that it does help with chronic pain.

"The science is pretty limited in terms of what has been demonstrated
for therapeutic use."

Myth #4: Cannabis will destroy your brain

"There are also people who claim that cannabis is going to basically
damage your brain when you use it, especially if you're young, and
that it's going to contribute to the intellectual downfall of a
generation. And that's also not true," she said.

While there is evidence of acute impairments in cognition and memory
related to cannabis, Hyshka said studies linking the drug to declines
in cognitive function "have not been well controlled."

Myth #5: Smoking pot in public could lead to unsuspecting passersby
getting stoned

"It's possible that with passive exposure, you could actually end up
with an elevated concentration of THC. But it has to be quite a bit -
it has to be an intense exposure," Hyshka said.

"Even with that elevated blood concentration level, it doesn't
necessarily translate to impairment. So I would say more or less
that's not really a practical concern."
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