Doctors N.S. releases recommendations ahead of marijuana legalization
Doctors Nova Scotia has released six recommendations aimed at minimizing the harms associated with cannabis use.
The association says it wants the province to take a population health approach to cannabis legalization, pointing to 2012 data from Health Canada, which indicates cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Nova Scotia.
According to the study, lifetime use of cannabis by Nova Scotians is 42.4 per cent, which is the highest provincial usage in Atlantic Canada and the fourth highest in Canada.
Doctors Nova Scotia says it’s important to restrict cannabis use in public places and also restrict its availability, similar to the approach taken with tobacco.
“Our province has made great strides to protect youth from tobacco use; the result has been decreased rates of tobacco use among youth and adults alike,” said Dr. Tim Holland, chair of the association’s Policy and Health Issues Committee.
“We don’t want cannabis to normalize the act of smoking, which would likely have the negative result of increased rates of cannabis and tobacco use.”
The first recommendation is that cannabis should be distributed and sold through government monopolies, where the primary objective is protecting public health and safety, and not revenue generation. Doctors Nova Scotia also says the distinction should be recognized in legislation.
"One of the risks at play with legalization is that you might imply that this is somehow a safe product. Cannabis is not a completely safe product,” said Dr. Holland. “It’s really critical when you're legalizing any substance that has potential health harms to implement the appropriate regulations.”
The second recommendation is to establish and invest in the necessary infrastructure to appropriately administer a government monopoly system and enforce restrictions.
Doctors Nova Scotia’s third recommendation is to establish a pricing and taxation structure designed to curb demand for cannabis.
They also recommend to set the minimum legal age to 21, implement comprehensive public education and to urge caution when implementing the initial regulatory process.
Doctors Nova Scotia says these measures would help protect public health and safety but those in the industry say it may have the opposite effect.
"If those patients are forced to move away from their current distribution model, we fear they won't get the same relief from pain and the same benefit from their medical situation then they are experiencing now,” says cannabis enthusiast Chris Enns. “Unfortunately where the provincial government has insisted there will be a strong taxation on cannabis sold through provincial outlets, we fear there will be significant price increases for patients.”
Nova Scotia is expected to release their legislation in the coming weeks.
Cannabis is set to be legalized in Canada later this year.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Marie Adsett.