Research and education needs to be provided, Dr. Mark Ware, a professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, told a drug policy conference in Ottawa.
By: Tonda Maccharles
OTTAWA—Canada should immediately boost spending on intensive public education and research into the impacts of marijuana and not wait until 2018 , says the co-chair of Ottawa’s pot task force.
Dr. Mark Ware, a professor in family medicine and anesthesia at McGill University, told a drug policy conference in Ottawa that a bill to overhaul Canada’s marijuana law is just the first step of what he predicts will be an “unbelievably deep and tangled web” with provinces, territories and municipalities who will be responsible for much of the scheme.
Meanwhile, Ware said, “research and education needs to be provided. This is something I’m still pushing for.”
“I haven’t felt, yet, that we have capacity to support this kind of legislative change in terms of measuring and understanding what the impact of this is on individual health and on public health.”
Ware was among dozens of experts at a conference on the future of drug policy in Canada looking at medium- and long-term recommendations for policy-makers.
But Ware had advice for the short term.
Canada needs a “lot more infrastructure” to support the nests of “very good researchers around the country,” who are studying plant sciences, pharmacology, and clinical research as well as policy, “but they’re not well connected and we’re not talking to one another,” said Ware.
He said for the legalization policy “to be rolled out and be implemented effectively and to respond to the realities that we get when it’s launched, we need that network to be in place.”
Ware also said provinces and municipalities need support to ensure they have the “required elements for licensing, for regulating, for inspecting.”
“This is a huge undertaking. I think we underestimate how deep this is going to go.”
Many at the conference supported the federal Liberal government’s desire to reduce the harms associated with illegal cannabis sales and use.
However Mark Kleiman, a professor of public service at New York University’s Marron Institute of Urban Management, had a stern warning. “Legalization and regulation are not a panacea. There is not a solution to the drug problem that consists of getting the criminal law out of the way and turning it over to the doctors and the public health folks.”
Kleiman, whose work was consulted by Ottawa’s task force, pointed to alcohol and tobacco as industries where legalization has not reduced public health harms. Instead, he said, commercialization supported industries with a vested interest in marketing a harmful product to dependent users, and these industries “aren’t down in the trenches advocating for a public health approach to addiction.”
“Expecting the nascent legal cannabis industry, or the existing legal alcohol industry, to worry about substance abuse is like expecting Exxon Mobil to worry about global warming. That’s the business they’re in.”
His advice: Canada should ensure cannabis is priced or taxed so that the cost “to get stoned,” which he put at about $1.50, doesn’t change, that appropriate health information is available at the point of sale, that marketing by commercial industry is restricted, and that retail sales clerks selling cannabis across the counter are trained in substance abuse and pharmacology, so they can advise their customer of the risks, and help identify those who need help.
Original article can be found here