Canadian Medical Association

As the legislation to legalize cannabis works its way through Parliament, CMA representatives are appearing before the Senate committee studying the issue this month, to highlight the potential health impacts on Canadians. This study is one of the final steps in the legislative process for Bill C-45, which was introduced last year.

CMA President Dr. Laurent Marcoux and Vice-president of Medical Professionalism Dr. Jeff Blackmer will be appearing on April 18 before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. They will be reiterating the CMA’s position in the following three areas:

  1. Public health
    The federal government must adopt a public health approach in the legalization and regulation of cannabis — to protect children and youth, in particular. Such an approach would include public health promotion, harm reduction strategies, prevention of dependency and access to treatment.
  2. Packaging & labeling
    Canadians must also be protected from any misleading claims on cannabis and be made aware that health products containing cannabis undergo different levels of scrutiny than prescription drugs, despite being regulated by Health Canada. Like tobacco and cigarettes, cannabis packaging and labeling provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the health, social and economic harms.
  3. Streamlined system
    Lastly, with the legalization of cannabis now on the horizon, the need for two systems — one for recreational and one for medical purposes — is significantly reduced. Should the government maintain the two systems, despite the issue of access largely resolved, the legislation should include the requirement for evaluation within three years.

Although cannabis will soon be legalized in Canada, the CMA will continue to work to ensure that the impact on the health of Canadians and our health care system is understood and addressed.

Highlights of our advocacy work on cannabis:

  • We recommended a broad public health approach in the legalization and regulation of cannabis in our August 2016 submission to the federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation.
  • We publicly supported the release of Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines in July 2017, which provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
  • We once again reinforced the need for a public health approach in our August 2017 submission to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health.
  • In our January 2018 submission to Health Canada, we recommended that government and health professionals — not cannabis producers or distributors — design cannabis labeling and packaging to emphasize the health risks associated with consumption.
  • We’re currently partnering with our medical student and resident members to develop a national public health awareness campaign for youth, to be launched this summer.

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