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

All signs suggest crime is down in Stettler

Stettler an engaged community says CAO Switenky

Lightning face league leader Airdrie on winning high

Sparks flew when Lightning and Thunder met

Understanding your credit score

Many things can make or break your score

Byemoor arena ready for skaters

Byemoor, Endiang, Big Valley news

VIDEO: Shoppers like self-checkout lanes at the grocery store, survey suggests

Grocery Experience National Survey Report suggests most grocery shoppers spend 32 minutes per visit

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

The latest advent calendar trend: Holiday cannabis

A Canadian company is giving people from coast to coast a new way to celebrate the Christmas countdown.

Ponoka’s Caleb Shimwell arrested after pursuit

Police allege that Shimwell rammed a police cruiser

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Most Read