OTTAWA – Six of the country’s leading health organizations endorse 10 new cannabis recommendations designed to help reduce the risks associated with Canadians using marijuana — which is set to become legal in a year.
The guidelines, published Friday in the American Journal of Public Health, include recommendations for people to avoid cannabis if they are pregnant or at risk of mental health problems, as well as delaying marijuana use until later in life and limiting consumption.
The guidelines also say driving under the influence of cannabis can substantially increase the risk of being involved in a motor-vehicle crash resulting in injury or death, adding drivers should wait at least six hours to get behind the wheel following use.
The suggestions flow from work conducted by the Ontario arm of the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse — a national initiative funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
An extensive body of scientific data form the basis for the recommendations, Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said Friday. He said the risk to users can be modified by choices, including how much and what people consume.
“One of the opportunities for us to improve public health related to cannabis use is by influencing and providing users with informed evidence on how to reduce risks,” Fischer said.
The guidelines, which Fischer said have been endorsed by his organization as well the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the Council of Chief Medical Officers, will now be distributed to governments, health authorities and public health agencies.
He public health researchers are realistic and accept the fact that Canadians, especially young people, are among the highest cannabis users in the world.
“We cannot just go on and preach the old story,” he said, noting a balance must be struck between preventing early use while giving people information on how to lower their risks as much as possible.
“That’s the balancing act and we have, now under legalization, not just the opportunity but we have the responsibility to do that.”
Dr. David Allison, the chief medical officer of health for Newfoundland and Labrador, said Friday the guidelines will serve as tool to protect and promote health, especially given many people may be harmed by cannabis use.
Public health experts say some of the harms associated with marijuana include the risk of developing problems with memory and physical co-ordination, impaired perceptions, mental health challenges, chronic respiratory problems and reproductive issues.
In April, the federal introduced legislation designed to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana for people over the age of 18.
Health Minister Jane Philpott said Friday she welcomes the guidelines, noting her department considers them important to help cannabis users reduce health and safety risks.
The government intends to bring the law into force no later than July 2018, Philpott said.
The 6 Recommendations can be found here: