Board of health prepares for marijuana legalization

Published Sept. 18 2018

With more than 50 per cent of area residents reporting that they have used cannabis at some point in their lives the local health unit is working to prepare for this fall’s legalization of marijuana.

At the June 21 meeting of the board of health for the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit public health nurse Cathy MacDonald provided board members with an overview of cannabis the legislation the public health implications and the work HKPR is doing to address cannabis consumption.

In her presentation MacDonald cited data from the Canadian Community Health Survey from 2013-2014 that show the self-reported use of cannabis for the health unit area is 50.1 per cent which is higher than the Ontario rate of 40.1 per cent. According to the 2015 Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drug survey cannabis was the most prevalently used illicit drug with 3.6 million people reporting use an increase of one per cent compared to 2013. The survey showed that Canadians aged 18 to 25 have disproportionately higher rates of cannabis consumption than the rest of the population and that 25 per cent of people reporting cannabis use during this time reported using it for medical purposes.

MacDonald provided an overview of the effects of cannabis and discussed the potential public health implications for the use of the drug including unintended exposure to children impact on respiratory health negative mental health implications and death through motor vehicle accidents lung cancer and substance use disorders.

Like other health units across the province HKPR Health Unit has been working to prepare for the upcoming change in legislation that will make marijuana legal. MacDonald and her colleagues have been providing programs about substance use to students in the schools and working with school boards and municipalities to help better prepare community partners for the legislative change.

“With the legalization of marijuana this fall public health units are working with local municipalities police forces and school boards to try and provide health education and recommendations on issues like the location of stores to ensure they are not easily accessible by youth” MacDonald said.

Submitted by HKPR Health Unit