A report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse urged legalization in this country to proceed slowly after reviewing the experience of U.S. states that went through the process.

Officials from the Health Canada funded organization met with leaders in Colorado and Washington to learn about their mistakes and were told that Canadians need to take their time.

“They said to start incrementally and don’t move too quickly,” said CCSA senior advisor Rebecca Jesseman. “And make sure your decisions and your actions are informed by the best possible evidence available because there are going to be unanticipated consequences.”

Jesseman said visiting the states was important as there isn’t much available data on the legalization experience in the U.S. and “waiting for scientific publications can take years.”

With Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government promising to regulate and legalize cannabis, Jesseman said authorities need to start collecting data on marijuana immediately in order to guide the success of future policies.

Without a baseline to compare future statistics to after legalization is enacted, Jesseman said important data will be lost forever.

“There are questions that Colorado and Washington can’t answer because there wasn’t any baseline data,” Jesseman said. “The greater the extent of work that can be done in advance the better.”

CCSA research and policy director Dr. Amy Porath-Waller said there are gaps in cannabis research, including the impact of regular, high dosage use of edibles and the long-term effects of medical marijuana.

“For any of our other pharmaceutical drugs they go through rigorous clinical trials,” Porath-Waller said. “We really need to do the same for medical cannabis.”

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