September 2017 – When September Comes Around…
When September Comes Around…
Activities are rapidly resuming while our summer at the Federation was busy following up on several files and preparing new ones, including the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. A Federal election promise, this should be done by July 2018.
The debate has just begun in Quebec starting with a public consultation in which the Federation will take part. From a medical point of view, several specialties feel directly concerned by the upcoming legalization of cannabis. It is in this spirit that we consulted you last June. Some 1,249 medical specialists answered all the questions in our poll; this is a reliable sample from a statistical point of view and the representativeness of the results allowed us to formulate the Federation's position on the subject.
You Have Spoken
As evidence that the subject has been widely covered by the media, close to 94% of respondents had heard of the Federal government's Bill C-45. While 63.7% are in favour of using cannabis for medical reasons, 58.3% are against the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Some 71% disagree with the fact that the legal age for purchasing cannabis is set at 18 : 42.9% are of the opinion that the acceptable legal age should be set at 21, while for 40.2%, it should be set at 25 or older. It is thus clear that the option of setting the age at 18 must be rejected and set instead at 21 or older.
Close to 60% assert that the legalization involves stakes that worry them within the framework of their medical specialty and they have provided hundreds of comments on the matter. Some 68% believe that the legalization of cannabis should be accompanied by the same regulations as govern tobacco products; 79% believe that it should also be preceded by other scientific studies; 95% think it could have consequences for road safety while 89.7% believe it would affect the workplace. In addition, 84.1% believe that the legalization could become a public health problem and that it could increase the cost of care to the population (75.3%). Some 64.8% of respondents are of the opinion that the legalization could generate revenues for the government and that these revenues should allow it to invest in prevention (51.1%). Insofar as selling cannabis for recreational use, some 64.2% of respondents opted for a Crown corporation.
Our Recommendations in Summary
The Federation recommends that the government of Quebec mandate the Institut de la statistique du Québec to proceed with a new survey among youngsters at the high school level and publish the results before an umbrella act is adopted. Has use gone down, has it remained stable or has it gone up ? It is essential we take stock of the situation. We also recommend that the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux be mandated to perform a longitudinal epidemiological study in order to compile a portrait of the state of dependence to the product according to the socio‑economic profile of consumers. We are of the opinion that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of cannabis or its derivatives should be established in the regulation and be submitted to control measures on the part of authorized producers.
We must insist on the need to equip ourselves with a truly integrated policy of prevention to act on all the determiners of health. The prevalence of chronic diseases that are avoidable generates significant costs for society. In the case of tobacco use alone, to which are attributed not only thousands of deaths per year, but also a significant proportion of these chronic diseases, the expenses generated are not compensated by the taxes it produces. Like the State of Colorado which instituted the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund at the same time as it legalized cannabis in 2012, the government of Quebec must profit from the new tax revenue it will generate from the sale of cannabis and its derivatives in order to equip itself with a real reserve to fund prevention and to promote healthy lifestyles. In order to be able to act on all fronts and to develop programs adapted to all types of clienteles, we recommend that a minimal and recurrent amount of $100 million be paid into this fund each year.
The legalization of cannabis for recreational use will have effects that are difficult to estimate. Will legalizing this substance result in an increase in the level of consumption, especially in young people? Will making this substance easily available result in making its use commonplace ? With regards to the major stakes for the health and safety of the population that the legalization of cannabis raises, it would have been greatly preferable if the government of Canada had not imposed such a restrictive deadline.
We will speak of this again, that's certain !