Cannabis and Health

Thematic files

The Government of Canada has committed to legalizing non-medical cannabis by July 1, 2018. In order to enhance understanding of the issues related to this initiative, we have brought together up-to-date, relevant information on the impacts of legalization from a public health perspective. Included here are topical fact sheets and a scientific, politic and news watch of each of the topics discussed.

Cannabis is the most commonly consumed illegal substance

Even within a context of prohibition, cannabis is the third most used psychoactive substance, after tobacco and alcohol, in Canada and everywhere else in the world.

Cannabis is not an ordinary product: it can present risks for public health and safety

Its psychoactive effects affect the ability to drive motor vehicles, can lead to dependence, can impair brain development in youth, and can potentially give rise to mental disorders. Smoking cannabis can also cause respiratory diseases.

Legalization can be compatible with health... under certain conditions

The legalization of non-medical cannabis can help improve public health. However, the choices that are made concerning regulation of the production, distribution and use of this substance will be key to achieving this objective. Among the regulatory initiatives that can be implemented, those targeting prevention, health and safety are to be prioritized:

  • Lean as far as possible toward a not-for-profit approach to avoid establishing a system that commercializes the substance and, by means of various strategies, fosters the trivialization of cannabis and encourages its increased use.
  • Establish one or more government agencies for the regulation and control of cannabis in order to manage the various public health issues related to its production and distribution of cannabis (persons or organizations that are authorized to produce and distribute, permissible forms of cannabis, advertising, accessibility, etc.).
  • Develop quality assurance mechanisms and procedures to control the THC levels, safety and quality of cannabis products.

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