Demand for commercial real estate is up as Canada moves closer towards the legalization of marijuana. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS) The federal government has promised to legalize recreational marijuana later this year under Bill C-45, which is expected to go to a final vote in the upper house Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Legal pot not a public health or safety threat

The report from Canadian doctors and researchers was submitted to the Senate this week

There’s little evidence that legalized marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety, and there may be benefits, says a new study from Canadian doctors and researchers.

The report, submitted to the Senate this week, outlines the positive and negative impacts legalization has had in other jurisdictions.

“It hasn’t been a public health disaster or crisis yet, but there are some key areas that we need to watch,” said Rebecca Haines-Saah, a public health specialist at the University of Calgary and one of the report’s authors.

The federal government has promised to legalize recreational marijuana later this year under Bill C-45, which is expected to go to a final vote in the upper house Thursday.

Dr. M.J. Milloy with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use worked on the study and said researchers did not find significant declines in road safety in American states where marijuana had been legalized, but they did find a drop in alcohol sales.

They also found that rates of fatal opioid overdoses went down in some places.

“There is evidence to suggest that when legal cannabis is available, people substitute that for other substances,” he said.

“We are hopeful that we might see some of the same benefits here.”

B.C. declared a public health emergency because of overdose deaths in April 2016. The provincial coroner’s service has said there were more than 1,400 fatal overdoses across B.C. last year.

The Senate report also outlines 28 indicators to watch for as Canada legalizes marijuana, grouped under the themes of public safety, cannabis use trends, other substance use trends, cardiovascular and respiratory health, and mental health and cognition.

The indicators include instances of cannabis-impaired driving, rates of use among youth and the number of marijuana-related calls to poison control centres.

Watching those areas will be key to determining if marijuana policy has been a success, said Haines-Saah.

It’s possible some of the negative indicators will see an uptick, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that legal pot is having a detrimental affect, said Haines-Saah.

She noted that some American jurisdictions have reported increases in cannabis-related calls to poison control centres following legalization.

Those incidents may have been happening previously, too, but parents were too scared to call because the drug was illegal, Haines-Saah said.

It’s important to look at the broad picture instead of specific instances, she said.

“I think we’ll see more people reporting use and harms in the first few years, but that doesn’t mean they’re real harms. It just means that reporting bias has been removed because of the stigma.”

Data about many of the suggested indicators is already being collected by various levels of government, and researchers or statisticians can use that to look at the impact of changes to marijuana policy, Milloy said.

Legalization is a “fundamental change” and decisions about public health need to be informed by scientific evidence, he added

“We really think that closely monitoring and evaluating the possible impact of cannabis legalization on public health is key.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lake Koocanusa under the microscope

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, Headwaters Montana and U.S. university launch water sampling program

Fernie arena tragedy “wake up call” for global refrigeration industry

Technical Safety BC’s incident report shared across 60 countries, reaching as far as Poland

Province offers support ahead of Fernie arena tragedy anniversary

Loss of three men in workplace incident motivates Labour Minister to make B.C. safer

Fernie Mayor reflects on arena tragedy

Mayor Mary Giuliano speaks about how she felt following the arena tragedy in an exclusive interview

VIDEO: Miniature horse predicts Elk Valley election result

Yay or neigh? Cowboy the miniature horse chooses the next mayors of Fernie and Sparwood

Secret supper clubs test appetite for cannabis-infused food ahead of legalization

Chefs are eagerly awaiting pot edibles to become legal in Canada

Meet the City of Fernie candidates

Voters in Fernie will vote for one Mayor, six Councillors and one School Board Trustee on October 20

Meet the District of Sparwood candidates

Voters in Sparwood will vote for one Mayor and six Councillors on October 20

Meet the District of Elkford candidates

The Elkford Chamber of Commerce will host an All Candidates Forum on October 4

Enbridge to begin building road to access pipeline explosion site in B.C.

An explosion Tuesday knocked out a 91-centimetre line

Andrew Scheer on revamped NAFTA deal: ‘I would have signed a better one’

Conservative leader says he wouldn’t have signed USMCA

Matheson will have NHL hearing after Canucks rookie Pettersson hit

The 19-year-old Swedish centre appeared woozy after the hit

GUEST COLUMN: A better way to manage B.C.’s public construction

Claire Trevena responds to Andrew Wilkinson on NDP union policy

B.C. brewery creates bread beer from food waste

The brew aims to raise food waste awareness and provide funds for the food bank

Most Read