CPHA recommends Senate vote in favour of cannabis legalization bill
The following is a letter sent to all Senators ahead of the upcoming vote on Bill C-45, An Act respecting cannabis, from Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA).
With the Senate’s vote imminent, I am taking this opportunity to underscore the important relationship between public health and legalization of cannabis.
I recognize that legalizing cannabis is a complex, multi-faceted task, and caution is essential. While some questions about operational and technical regulations may remain, I strongly recommend that you and your colleagues pass this legislation to clear the way for enhanced health promotion, education and research initiatives. In turn, these initiatives will generate valuable insights into cannabis consumption that can be used to strengthen future amendments and regulations. CPHA also supports provincial/territorial oversight of home cultivation and the proposed restrictions on branded promotion.
You may wonder if Canada is ready for legalized cannabis. I stress that we are past the time of ready: 12% of the general population, 30% of adults aged 20-24 and 21% of youth aged 15-19 have reported using cannabis in the last year. Legal or not — Canadians consume cannabis.
Legalization will help usher in new forms of targeted public health initiatives directed at minimizing potential harms associated with cannabis use. Legalization will facilitate in-depth analysis of consumption figures, enabling us to identify heavy users, understand the contributing factors of their use and focus interventions accordingly. Legalization will reduce dependency on dangerous illegal markets and their unregulated products.
A number of jurisdictions have already begun paving the way for legalization, imparting important lessons that Canada can certainly build upon, including:
- Regulators must be flexible and ready to adapt to changing marketplace conditions;
- Upstream health promotion investments are essential;
- Law enforcement and public health must work together; and,
- The interests of the private sector that profits from the production and sale of cannabis are rarely aligned with public health interests.
When the time to vote arrives, I ask that you keep in mind the original intent of the bill — to protect the health and safety of Canadians, particularly youth — and with that, vote in favour of legalization.