Canadian Mental Health Association report recommends cautious approach to legalization

Ban cannabis smoking in vehicles, fund mental health initiatives

As Canada lines up its efforts to legalize cannabis, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has released a report that, among other things, proposes that the country implement a zero tolerance to consumption of cannabis in vehicles for both drivers and passengers.

It’s just one of several recommendations made by a Canadian Mental Health Association report released this week after being submitted for consideration to the Province of Ontario. The organization also recommends the government implement a marijuana version of the Smart Serve program that alcohol serves must undertake in Ontario, and that tax revenue be funneled into mental health services.

Some of the CMHA’s recommendations stand in contrast to the official Government of Canada proposals that have found their way into the latest draft of the Cannabis Act. These include the organization’s calls to decriminalize personal possession of cannabis by youth and replace criminal sanctions with “alternatives such as mandatory education, police referrals to community based mental health and addictions programs, community service, counselling and other supports.” The Cannabis Act does decriminalize both the possession and sharing of cannabis by youth, but only up to 5 grams. If youth are apprehended above that amount, they will be dealt with by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. There are some similarities between the proposals, as the YCJA actually does allow the imposition of the non-criminal sanctions sought by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The report recommends a minimum age of 19, which would mirror the age for alcohol sales in Ontario. This appears to be one recommendation that may be taken up by the Ontario government, as it strives to both keep cannabis out of the hands of youth while also trying to undermine the current black market.

One recommendation that might be music to the ears of premier Kathleen Wynne is the CMHA’s suggestion that cannabis be sold in a highly regulated environment, with the establishment of a Cannabis Control Board similar to the province’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

Some recommendations might rankle the ire of current cannabis connoisseurs. These recommendations include that there be a limit applied on the allowable percentage of THC, and limiting the availability of cannabis “by placing caps on retail density and hours of sale.”

In its report, the association highlighted four “focuses” that they say underlie their recommendations: a focus on a public health approach, a focus on mental and addictions, a focus on research, and a focus on health equity. In line with that approach, they believe that cannabis revenues should be divided four ways: 25% for the development of programs designed to help cannabis users facing mental health and addictions problems, 25% for public awareness campaigns, 25% for research on the potential harms and benefits of cannabis usage, and 25% for enforcement-related issues such as monitoring of advertising.

What do you think, Lift readers? Do you think the Canadian Mental Health Association got it right? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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  1. Maxcatski Reply

    I think the Canadian Mental Health Association needs to promote the use of cannabis for the medical benefits both physical and psychological. Zero Tolerance in vehicles and limiting THC levels are both non-starters in the real world. Don't forget, our main goal is to eliminate the black market. Oh, I should say regulate and control. People will get their pot when they want it so it's best to make it easy for them to get the legal kind. This is more prohibition-era thinking, folks. It's time to move forward into the new era of legal cannabis. That will be the biggest harm reduction of all!

  2. Doug B. McCarten Reply

    Where did all the education go? This is being distorted beyond belief!! What is all the emphasis being placed upon mental illness and addiction about! Forced education programs? Give me a break! Look at the stats from other jurisdictions and none of the fears expressed by CMHA have proven true in reality! The negative emphasis being placed on marijuana shows the ignorance of our medical professionals in addition to that shown by our politicians! Their suggested zero tolerance doesn't separate recreational use from medical use! With zero tolerance every medical patient would fail! Medical use is daily use so THC would always be present but is not an indicator of impairment! Frustrated at the lack of knowledge which may guarantee failure!