Under Justin Trudeau’s leadership, Canada is preparing for a fully regulated, adult-legal cannabis market, beginning in July 2018. On Monday, August 14, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario issued a report entitled “Cannabis Legalization and Regulation” meant to give guidance to Canadian legislators regarding next year’s roll out. As one might expect, the mental health community is rallying around an approach to policy that views cannabis through a public health lens.
As a result, the report advises a couple of somewhat controversial recommendations, which may please some supporters of prohibition on one hand, and upset them on the other.
First, the CMHA Ontario identifies driving-under-the-influence of cannabis as the issue of greatest concern for public safety in a legalization scenario. However, the organization recognizes the scientific truth that testing of impairment for cannabis remains inaccurate, and therefore cannot be used as a truthful measure for gauging driver safety. As a result, the CMHA Ontario recommends a zero-tolerance policy for driving and cannabis use:
“Because the technology to detect an individual’s level of impairment due to cannabis is still in development at this time, CMHA Ontario recommends a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis consumption in any motorized vehicle in order to ensure road safety during this time of transition. A zero-tolerance policy would include both the driver of the motorized vehicle, as well as any passengers in the car. It is important that a clear message be sent to the public as soon as possible regarding zero tolerance for impaired driving due to cannabis use.”
Interestingly, the CMHA Ontario has taken an alternative approach to youth access of cannabis. In a move that runs counter to what most US citizens would think wise, the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation report actually recommends a minimum legal age of purchase to be 19 years:
“Frequent cannabis use can harm a developing brain and there is no evidence that supports a specific age when cannabis use is safe for young people. However, there are concerns that a higher minimum age may contribute to young people accessing cannabis from illegal sources. Establishing a higher minimum age standard will be less effective in undermining the black market, and may leave youth both criminalized and reliant on it.”
The report also recommends a mandatory public health training similar to workers in the food service industry and development of a regulatory “cannabis control board”.
The politics of cannabis legalization are playing out on the international field, and governmental agencies are coming up with new and interesting approaches to regulation. Canada has certainly shown itself a leader in its experimentation with cannabis laws, and will likely continue as a trend-setter in the future.