OPINION | Evidence in Action

Edible cannabis products, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals will be legal on October 17, 2019. 

Canadians need the facts to make informed choices about these products.

Experts within the federal government and provincial and municipal governments across the country, have been working for well over a year to increase knowledge among Canadians in preparation for the new product regulations. 

The legalization of non-medical cannabis use has produced a need for fact-based, objective public education efforts. It is crucial that Canadians have the information to make informed decisions and, should they choose to use, know how to reduce their risk.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has researched and published numerous evidence-based resources on the subject of cannabis and cannabis use, including theCannabis Communication Guide for Youth Allies targeted to andco-designed with youthWithin aweek of its publication, it became one of the most-downloaded resources ever published by CCSA with 8,000 downloads on the first day. 

The communication guide grew out of an identified gap: we heard from parents and those working with youth — youth allies —that they did not know what to say to young people about cannabis and didn’t know how to broach the subject. They wanted evidence and education, and CCSA had both. 

CCSA is the only agency in Canada with the national mandate to reduce the harms of substance use. Our organization serves as the beacon for emerging issues, identifying the problems we are trying to solve, working with our partners to look at the evidence surrounding the issues, and then developing the solutions based on that evidence. 

Evidence, engagement and making an impact. These principles are at the heart of everything we do at CCSA. 

Canadians throughout the country are hungry for clear, objective information. We are here to provide it. We are here to ensure they have access to evidence-based information on cannabis products. 

The regulation of non-medical cannabis use is new. Public education is critical. 

Strong, evidence-informed public education efforts related to the new cannabis products are key to reducing the harms related to the over-consumption of these products. That education must include an understanding of the differences between inhaling and ingesting cannabis, and of the importance of safe storage and of reading the labels.

Canadians have access to information that can help them understand and use these new cannabis products in a lower-risk manner. Resources such as CCSA’s Clearing the Smoke on Cannabisseries and the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelinesproduced by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Canadian Institutes of Health Research are providing the facts that people need to make informed decisions.

But we are not nearly done. 

Successful public education initiatives are consistent, sustainable and long-term. These conversations on cannabis and the new products sparked by legalization will continue for decades, joining the ranks of public health and safety topics such as alcohol, tobacco and impaired driving. 

On the eve of legalization of edible cannabis products, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals, CCSA and the 6thEstate are hosting a panel discussion on October 16thcalled Public Education on the New Cannabis Productsin Ottawa, Ontario. Expert panelists with first-hand experience developing public education initiatives will share best practices and lessons learned. It will be an informative discussion and a can’t-miss-event for our colleagues and friends in the health, public education and substance use fields.  

We know that getting information into the hands of those who need it is the most valuable tool we have. Let’s get it out there. Let’s use it.  

Rita Notarandrea, M.H.Sc., C.H.E. is Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA).


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