by Written on behalf of Wise Health Law January 26, 2018 3 min read

In the lead-up to this summer’s legalization of marijuana, many medical organizations have been revisiting their respective positions regarding the change. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been a proponent of a multi-faceted public health strategy with respect to marijuana, and seeks the prioritization of certain goals prior to the legalization date. Its position is laid out in submissions previously made to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health while Bill C-45 (The Cannabis Act) was still being debated.

The CMA’s Submissions on Medical Marijuana

Since 2002, the CMA has taken a “public health perspective” to marijuana and other illegal drugs. The Association has long-standing concerns about the health risks associated with consuming cannabis, particularly in smoked form and especially by children and youth. The CMA has advocated that legalization must be guided by a comprehensive cannabis public health strategy that includes a strong legal regulatory framework emphasizing harm reduction principles and addressing addiction, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. The Association has noted some key public health initiatives that the federal government has not adequately addressed in their opinion and which should be implemented before legalization. The most important of these is education around the “health, social and economic harms of cannabis use especially in young people”.

Protection of Children and Youth

The CMA notes that youth and young adults are among the highest users of marijuana in Canada. The Association believes that, from a health perspective, the biggest focus of physicians should be protecting the brain of adolescents and young adults during development. Allowing any use of marijuana by youth under the age of 25, and particularly those under the age of 21, is a challenge for physicians since there are documented neurotoxic effects of cannabis use on the brain. This impact is more severe in adolescents and young adults than adults. Studies have shown that use of marijuana by adolescents produces bigger deficits and impairment in executive functioning, verbal IQ, learning, and memory than its use by adults. Based on this, the CMA believes that 21 should be the minimum age for legal use of marijuana and that quantities and potency of cannabis be restricted to those under 25.

Strong, Effective Education Aimed at Dispelling Common Misconceptions

The CMA notes that the federal government has earmarked $9.6. million towards a public awareness campaign aimed at informing Canadians (particularly youth) of the risks of marijuana consumption. This is in comparison to the $38 million budget for campaigns intended at helping reduce smoking tobacco, and similarly high budgets towards alcohol education. The Association believes that any marijuana harm reduction strategies should include a hierarchy of goals with an immediate focus on young people. These strategies should include educational interventions, social marketing interventions, and mass media campaigns. Education should focus not only on the general risks of marijuana but also on its specific harm to young people, particularly as evidence shows that fewer adolescents believe that marijuana use has any serious health risks for them. In the CMA’s view, a strong educational program that is rolled out prior to legalization would reduce the numbers of “uninformed young recreational users”. Other notable CMA proposals include plain packaging and labelling with health information and health warnings.

Supporting a “One-System” Approach

The CMA believes once legalization occurs, there will no longer be a need for two systems (one for medical marijuana use and one for non-medical marijuana use). As such, the medical profession will no longer need to continue to be involved as a “gatekeeper” once marijuana is legal, particularly since cannabis has not undergone the standard Health Canada pharmaceutical regulatory approval process. If there continue to be two systems post-legalization, it is the CMA’s recommendation that the systems be revisited within five years.

Other Goals

The CMA also identified several other goals that they believe need to be reached before legalization. These include:
  • Proper data collection;
  • Monitoring and surveillance;
  • Ensuring a proportionate balance between enforcement harms and the direct and indirect harms caused by cannabis use; and
  • Research.
At Wise Health Law, we provide exceptional guidance on health law matters to regulated health professionals, regulated health professional associations, and others in the medical world across the province. We monitor trends and developments in health so that we can provide forward-thinking legal and risk management advice to all our clients. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.


Also in Blog

Judicial Review: New Time Limits and a Helpful Primer

by Mina Karabit September 17, 2020 4 min read

In December 2019, Ontario’s Attorney General introduced Bill 161, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act (the “Act”), which became law on July 8, 2020. The Act hopes to simplify a complex and outdated justice system by bringing changes to how legal aid services are delivered, how class actions are handled, and how court processes are administered.

Of note, the Act has amended the Judicial Review Procedures Act (JRPA) to establish new rules as to when an application for judicial review may be brought.

Any decisions made on or after July 8, 2020 are now subject to a 30-day limit for bringing an application for judicial review unless another Act provides otherwise. Courts, however, retain powers to extend the time for making an application for judicial review if satisfied that there are apparent grounds for relief and that no prejudice or hardship will be incurred by the delay. Before these amendments, the JRPA did not set out any time limits for bringing an application, but courts had powers to extend the time to bring an application if another Act prescribed the limit.

Recent Exemptions for Psychedelic Therapy in Canada

by Mina Karabit August 14, 2020 3 min read

In early August 2020, the Federal Minister of Health granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to four terminally ill Canadians to use psilocybin in their end of life care.

Psilocybin is one of the active ingredients/chemicals in “magic mushrooms,” the other is psilocin. Both psilocybin and psilocin are controlled substances under Schedule III of the CDSA. The sale, possession, production, etc. are prohibited unless authorized for clinical trial or research purposes under Part J of the Food and Drug Regulations. Both have been illegal in Canada since 1974. According to Health Canada, there are no approved therapeutic products containing psilocybin in Canada. However, the purified active ingredient, i.e. psilocybin, is being studied in supervised clinical settings for its potential to treat various conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Health Care Professionals in Ontario Begin the Restart

by Valerie Wise May 28, 2020 3 min read

The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario has issued an updated Directive #2 (dated May 26, 2020) for Regulated Health Professionals in the province. 

Pursuant to the updated Directive #2, all deferred non-essential and elective services by health care providers may be gradually restarted – subject to the rest of the requirements set out in the Directive.

The updated Directive #2 does not provide particularly detailed guidance to health professionals on how to proceed, likely because it applies to such a broad spectrum of health care and health professionals. It does, however, provide some principles to assist health care providers in making decisions as we enter this transitional period.