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Cannabis in the Community - Results of Talk Public Health: The NWHU Online Discussion Panel

In October 2017, 11 area residents took part in the fifth Talk Public Health: NWHU Online Discussion Panel.

During the panel, the participants learned about cannabis use, the health a nd social harms and costs of cannabis misuse, and potential policy tools for addressing cannabis misuse. They took part in discussions and made final recommendations about where the health unit should focus its energy with regards to cannabis policy.

The following topics were discussed:
  • Cannabis smoke-free spaces
  • Production and distribution of cannabis
  • Cannabis public health education
  • Marketing of cannabis products
Themes from the discussions are summarized below:

Cannabis smoke-free spaces
Panelists noted that once cannabis is legalized and permitted to be consumed in one’s home this may negatively affect indoor air quality if cannabis is smoked inside.  A non-smoker should be protected from exposure to cannabis smoke or smell in a multi-unit dwelling. Panelists were split on whether cannabis smoke should be regulated in public areas – half were supportive of the public consumption ban and thought that if initial laws were strong and restrictive, they could be relaxed after implementation when it was determined what effects this would have on our communities. The other half said that having restrictions on where cannabis is consumed would continue the legacy and harms of the punitive cannabis laws that waste enforcement resources and have negative effects on the person being penalized. There was a consensus that cannabis lounges if permitted, should be located away from where youth frequent and impaired driving should be policed at the lounges the same way it is with alcohol at licensed premises.

Production and distribution of cannabis
Panelists were supportive of having a cannabis production facility (i.e. licensed grow facility) in the northwestern Ontario area if strict security measures were in place to ensure safety and if it was located outside city centres which could be controlled by municipal zoning by-laws.  It was thought that a licensed cannabis production facility would create economic advantages and local jobs. Most panelists thought that an LCBO-type storefront would offer enough government oversight to ensure cannabis distribution is well-monitored and safe. Some panelists questioned how online and storefront customers will be informed of safe product usage, including the pros and cons of purchasing different cannabis products (e.g. bud, oil, hash, rosin/wax, tinctures) and how to safely use them. At cannabis storefront locations it was assumed that staff would be trained on how to guide customers through the cannabis selection process, similar to how staff can help customers choose which bottle of wine to purchase at LCBO stores.

Most panelists were supportive of allowing home cultivation of cannabis, with security measures to prevent accidental ingestion and youth access. Panelists were supportive of having commercially available edible products if they came from licensed producers and had appropriate labelling and warnings, especially if they could be transported off of the premise. Edible products often look like foods that are desirable for kids and youth to eat (i.e. brownies, gummies, and candy); the packaging of edibles would have to be secure and prevent accidental ingestions by kids, youth, or even pets. The location of commercial retailers should be away from where youth frequent.

Cannabis public health education
The following were suggested topics the NWHU should focus on for future public health education campaigns and strategies:
  • New Ontario laws and how they will be implemented and enforced
  • Tips/harm reduction strategies for novice users
  • What you can expect to experience when you use cannabis
  • Ways to prevent accidental ingestion of home-made edibles
  • Cannabis Lower-Risk Usage Guidelines
  • Cannabis impaired driving
  • Cannabis use effects on mental health
Marketing of cannabis products
Panelists were divided when discussing the marketing of cannabis products. Several panelists thought that the marketing of cannabis should be modeled similar to that of alcohol. The goal of the marketing would be to inform customers about the product and give information on what flavours, smells and experience can be expected. Other panelists thought that marketing should initially be strict and modelled after tobacco, then in the future limits could be relaxed if necessary. The marketing should only be permitted at distribution facilities (LCBO-type storefronts) and only contain enough information for customers to choose strain, potency ratios, and product type. The consensus among that group was that cannabis marketing should not be targeted at youth or be allowed at community events or locations where youth are present.

What can you do?

Get involved with local groups and committees. Do One Thing! Ask your municipality to pass a policy that supports healthy, active environments and community spaces. We can help. One thing, many rewards. Want to join the next panel? Click here to find out more.