HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Health Unit Grapples With Cannabis Legalization
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2017
Source: Recorder & Times, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Recorder and Times
Contact: http://www.recorder.ca/letters
Website: http://www.recorder.ca/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2216
Author: Sabrina Bedford
Page: A3

HEALTH UNIT GRAPPLES WITH CANNABIS LEGALIZATION

It will become legal next year, but the local health unit is grappling
with what role it will play in dealing with recreational cannabis.

The federal government has laid out the legal framework to legalize
recreational cannabis use by June, and the province has already set
out how it plans to regulate use throughout Ontario.

The sale of marijuana will only be allowed through
government-regulated stores overseen by the Liquor Control Board of
Ontario (LCBO) and the proposed minimum age to use, purchase and
possess will be 19.

The use of recreational cannabis will be prohibited in public places
and workplaces.

At its monthly board meeting last week, the Lanark Leeds Grenville
District Health Unit discussed what their role should be once it's
legal.

"Just because it's legalized doesn't mean it's healthy or safe," said
Dr. Paula Stewart, the tri-county health unit's medical officer of
health during the discussion.

"We're going have to be ready as a community for this."

As a board, they discussed some issues that could come up from a
health perspective, such as youth curiosity, enforcement by both the
health unit and police, driving while impaired, and the health impacts
of "smoking an unfiltered marijuana cigarette."

They, however, have no mandate over these issues as most of the
enforcement will be handled through the police.

The health unit does play a role in enforcing the Smoke Free Ontario
Act, however. The agency's tobacco enforcement officers are currently
able to issue tickets for smoking cigarettes and medicinal marijuana
in a public place. But they won't have the power to issue tickets for
people using the drug recreationally - that enforcement will again be
left to police.

"It's all still up in the air," said Rebecca Kavanagh, manager of the
health unit's Healthy Living and Development department.

"If our enforcement officers are already out there in those public
places, it would be nice for them to have some tools to deal with
(people using marijuana recreationally)."

She added there will be increased addictions services available for
people that identify they need support, but they won't be one of those
support agencies - they will just assist with referrals.

One of their main areas of focus will be cannabis use among
youth.

A survey done throughout the counties suggests that already, while the
drug is still illegal, 26 per cent of students in high school have
smoked marijuana in the last year, compared to just 6 per cent who
smoked cigarettes.

The upcoming legalization could increase the amount of use among young
adults, though by how much they weren't sure.

The health unit's tobacco prevention team has been very successful in
keeping youth smoking rates down, Kavanagh said, and they hope to
implement a similar program for youth cannabis use as well.

But the group also spoke of the societal benefits of administering
cannabis for pain as opposed to opioids, and the eventual benefits of
having the substance available in edible or oil format for
recreational use.

"It happens anyway," Stewart said, adding a survey recently suggested
that 46 per cent of adults smoked marijuana in the last year. "It's
common." Legalization is currently on track to become a reality in
June 2018, and there are still many kinks to work out, the board
determined.
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