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Cannabis and the CMA

Cannabis legalization for recreational purposes

In response to the high use rates among Canadians ― particularly among youth ― the federal government has committed to legalizing the recreational use of cannabis by July 2018.

Recommending a public health approach

In legalizing cannabis, the federal government must focus on protecting Canadians and reducing any potential impact on health — in particular for children and youth.

In its submission to the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, the CMA recommends a broad public health approach that would focus on:

  • preventing drug dependence and addiction;
  • increasing availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those who wish to stop using; and
  • increasing the safety for those who are using through harm reduction programs and awareness.

In June 2017, the CMA publicly supported the release of Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, which provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.

In its submission to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health in August 2017, the CMA reinforced the need for a public health approach in the legalization of cannabis for recreational purpose.

Regulating cannabis: protecting Canadians’ health

In regulating cannabis, Canadians must be protected from misleading claims. Despite being regulated by Health Canada, health products containing cannabis undergo different levels of scrutiny compared to prescription drugs. Many consumers may not be aware of this discrepancy.

In its January 2018 submission to Health Canada, the CMA recommends that government and health professionals — not cannabis producers or distributors — design cannabis labeling and packaging to emphasize the health risks associated with consumption.

Like tobacco and cigarettes, cannabis packaging and labeling provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the health, social and economic harms of use, especially in youth.

Cannabis for medical purposes

Government regulation currently permits the use of cannabis for medical purposes. While the CMA recognizes that some individuals suffering from terminal illness or chronic disease may obtain relief with cannabis, there is insufficient evidence on risks and benefits, the proper dosage and potential interactions with other medications.

With the legalization of cannabis now underway, we believe that a separate regulatory framework for medical use is no longer necessary, and look forward to working with the federal government to eliminate this framework as soon as possible.

Learn more about cannabis and the CMA

For more information on the CMA’s work on cannabis, please contact