On Oct. 31, the Canadian government announced that it’s spending an additional $36.4M on a five-year cannabis education and awareness campaign, which is on top of the $9.6M announced earlier in the 2017 Budget, adding up to a total of $46M.
The Trudeau government justifies the spending as “protecting the youth” which is one of their top reasons for pursuing legalization in the first place, along with cutting out organized crime, and there will be multiple educational campaigns in many forms including social media, advertising, and interactive events.
According to the government’s press release, while the education and awareness campaigns primarily target youth and young adults, other priority groups include “Indigenous peoples, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and Canadians with a history of mental illness”.
A shift from cannabis abstinence and criminal penalties to education
With legalization around the corner, the focus is shifting from abstinence and the consequences of breaking the law to the health effects and risks of cannabis use, and further along those lines, the campaign aims to encourage parents to have discussions about cannabis with their children. The government is even providing information and resources such as the Cannabis Talk Kit for concerned parents.
There’s no word on the substance of the campaigns yet, or even how cannabis will be treated compared to alcohol and tobacco, buta balanced and unbiased comparison between the drugs would be ideal to allow the public to be properly informed of the risks of all of them.
As Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said during a recent press conference, “We have never indicated that we are promoting the use of marijuana”, and they have made that very clear.
Will the campaigns focus only on cannabis’ dangers?
It’s worth noting that the majority of the information provided by the government focuses on the dangers and negative consequences of cannabis with very little spent on the medicinal benefits, although it’s acknowledged there is “evidence of potential therapeutic uses of cannabis or its component chemicals (cannabinoids).”
An ad hoc committee comprised of experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report back in January that stated, among other things, that there is “moderate evidence of no statistical association between cannabis use and incidences of lung, head, and neck cancer” when smoking it- you definitely can’t say the same thing about tobacco!
The report also acknowledged the “conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults”.
The committee also had many conclusions that may serve to discourage cannabis use, but while we are practically guaranteed to see the negative aspects, we wonder if the positive sides of cannabis will be brought to light as well.
According to the Feds
“Our Government wants Canadians to have clear, factual information so that they understand how using cannabis could affect them. Our investment today is another step in informing Canadians, especially youth and young adults, about the real effects of cannabis.”- Bill Blair, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice