Public Health Office advises 'cautious approach' to pot legalization on P.E.I.
Legalization will increase usage, and thus health risk, office warns in report
P.E.I.'s Public Health Office says legalizing cannabis will likely lead to increased health risks from the drug, with usage among Islanders expected to increase from 40 to 60 percent within the first year.
Citing previous research on the topic, the report identifies a number of short and long-term health effects associated with cannabis, including:
- Cognitive and psychomotor impairment.
- Low birthweight pregnancies.
- Impaired cardiovascular functioning.
- Decreased neurocognitive functioning.
The report also mentions the medicinal use of marijuana in helping manage symptoms in patients including those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and multiple scleroris.
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Half of Islanders who try pot do so before age 16
The report cites projections from the RAND Corporation suggesting pot consumption will increase between 40 and 60 per cent during the first year of legalization.
"Commercialization of cannabis is anticipated to increase consumption and subsequent health harms," the report states.
The report also points to early data from studies looking at the legalization of pot in Colorado, warning P.E.I. may see increases in cannabis-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations and an increase in unintentional exposures to cannabis products, including among children.
According to the report pot usage among Islanders is similar to rates in Canada as a whole — 10.7 per cent of Island adults report they have used it over the past year.
The report does caution that figure is self-reported and says the actual number is probably higher, given the current illicit status of the drug.
Usage among students is much higher, with 25-30 per cent reporting having used it over the past year. And more than 50 per cent of Islanders who've tried cannabis report trying it before the age of 16.
Strict regulations recommended
The Public Health Office is advising that the government adopt strict regulations to help mitigate the health risk from legalized pot, including "control of cannabis production and sale, establishing a minimum age of purchase, restricting advertising and marketing, [and] curbing demand through pricing and taxation."
In terms of where marijuana should be available for purchase, the report cites a Government of Canada task force recommendation "against co-location of cannabis with tobacco or alcohol at retail locations. P.E.I.'s selection of a cannabis distribution and sale model will be a key aspect of cannabis regulation that will influence cannabis consumption and public health risk."
The P.E.I. government has invited Islanders to participate in an online survey or provide written submissions on the topic of how to regulate marijuana use in the province. In April, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said P.E.I. was in discussions with the other Atlantic provinces to develop a uniform approach throughout the region.
The federal government has announced it intends to legalize marijuana across the country by July of 2018, but has left decisions on how to regulate the drug to the provinces.
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