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

Place mats given to Summerland care facility

Hand-quilted mats made by Summerland Material Girls given to Dr. Andrew Pavillion in Summerland

Bottleneck Drive raises funds for Summerland Food Bank

Money was raised during tasting events at Summerland Festival of Lights

Nature Trust of B.C. purchases property in South Okanagan

Parcel will be added to White Lake biodiversity ranch

Investigation into Naramata fire chief could wrap up before year end

An outside company has been investigating Naramata fire chief since Oct. 22 when he was suspended

EDITORIAL: Considering carriage houses

Changes in established neighbourhoods can also result in changes to the character of the area

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

Missing man last seen in Shuswap

Red Deer RCMP would like public’s help locating elderly man with dementia last observed in Sicamous

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Aboriginal poet faces backlash for calling out NHL-themed totem poles

Rebecca Thomas says she received backlash for asking a drugstore chain to remove NHL merchandise

No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

BC Transit says they are monitoring the roll-out of free WiFi on Translink vehicles

Some Kotex tampons recalled in Canada and U.S.

In some cases, tampon users sought medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

Sex-assault squad investigated eight incidents at Toronto all-boys’ school

The interim president of a Roman Catholic all-boys school rocked by student-on-student abuse allegations said the football program was cancelled for next year.

Most Read