Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay health unit planning cannabis public forum, education campaigns

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says an ongoing public survey on cannabis use will help shape a number of future educational efforts but a community forum this fall and an educational campaign around impaired driving next year are already in the works.

Current community survey seeking input on what residents want to know more about, thoughts on new products

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit, alongside other partners, are preparing a number of cannabis-related education initiatives. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says an ongoing public survey on cannabis use will help shape a number of future educational efforts but a community forum this fall and an educational campaign around impaired driving next year are already in the works.

The survey, launched in partnership with the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy, is seeking input on what city and district residents think about legalized marijuana, what they'd like to know more about, how they'd like to get the information, as well as people's thoughts on other products that are slated to be legally sold in the future, like edibles, said Sheena Albanese, a health promotion planner with the health unit.

Planning for these initiatives has been in the works for some time, Albanese said, but arrives as the provincial government confirmed that Thunder Bay will be home to one of the licensees allowed to open a physical retail store to sell cannabis.

"This is something that we certainly expected ... so it was sort of a matter of time," she said. "I guess what it means for us is that we step up our role really as educators because I think this is going to really pique interest in the topic of cannabis."

"The prospect of a storefront coming to Thunder Bay and opening here and I think that's kind of a good opportunity for us in public health to convey really good, credible information."

Albanese said details about the community forum on cannabis this year and 2020's impaired driving education campaign are still being worked out with community partners — she said the drug-impaired driving work will be done in partnership with police, the Ministry of Transportation and other stakeholders — but the forum this fall would be "education oriented" and could include speakers, question-and-answer sessions and displays and access to other resources.

"As we sort of move through this new reality, this new environment, we're just trying to take little steps at a time to try and understand 'alright, what does this mean now and how can we, in public health, provide good education and good information,'" she said.

As for next year's education campaign around impaired driving, she said it could focus on answering questions people may have around legislation, how impairing cannabis is, how long it stays in one's system and how police test for impaired driving.

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