New Brunswick

After pot is legal: Doctors urge province not to forget marijuana can do harm

New Brunswick doctors say only a Crown corporation with strict monopoly control should be allowed to sell recreational marijuana in the province.

New Brunswick Medical Society makes 14 recommendations to government for making legal marijuana less risky

The New Brunswick Medical Society says the province has to address some serious issues before recreational marijuana goes on sale. (Robert Short/CBC)

New Brunswick doctors say only a Crown corporation with strict monopoly control should be allowed to sell recreational marijuana in the province.

Whether NB Liquor or some other corporation takes charge of sales, the retail marijuana business should not be subject to profit targets or take place alongside the sale of alcohol or tobacco, the New Brunswick Medical Society says.

"We have to remember there are great potential harms that come from marijuana use," Dr. Lynn Murphy-Kaulbeck, the president of the New Brunswick Medical Society, said Monday.

The professional association accepts that marijuana will be legalized, but it has made recommendations to the government that suggest the New Brunswick government take a breath as it contemplates the impact on the province.

The federal Liberals are expected to introduce legislation soon that will make marijuana legal by July 2018.

Provinces will be responsible for some regulatory areas, such as how the drug can be advertised and who can sell it.

Calling marijuana "an inherently harmful substance," the medical society made 14 recommendations to government for regulating the sale of the drug when it becomes legal. The goal is to minimize harm, particularly to young adults, the group said.

​The recommendations cover everything from law enforcement to distribution and retailing concerns.

Greatest threats to public

One recommendation says the group believes marijuana shouldn't be sold to anyone under 25 but knows it may be necessary to adopt 21 as a minimum age to discourage illicit purchases.

"It's harmful to the developing brain whether that's in fetuses or in young adults," Murphy-Kaulbeck said.

As with tobacco and alochol, she said, it's important to educate young people about marijuana.

"As a parent you go forward and try to teach your kids that even though something's legal, legal doesn't equate [with] safety," she said.

The medical society recommends marijuana and tobacco be sold in plain packaging.

Public health an issue

"Tobacco's is a very harmful substance," she said. "If we're going to move forward with marijuana at 21, tobacco, in my mind, would follow right behind."

Murphy-Kaulbeck said the province is looking for the potential for profit from legalized marijuana, but she expressed optimism that provincial leaders will consider the medical society's recommendations.

"I do believe they're looking for guidance ... they care about the public health as well," she said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton