VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Five years after Canada legalized cannabis in October 2018, experts are unveiling a nuanced review of the policy’s outcomes. Unfortunately, the results are not a complete success. Researchers from Simon Fraser University are calling it a mixed bag, with social justice benefits outweighing the health benefits.
Canada’s move to legalize cannabis was aimed at improving cannabis-related public health and safety, as well as reducing the rate of youth usage and illegal activities linked to the drug. While this step was seen as progressive by many, certain health experts had concerns about potential negative health consequences for Canadians.
“Limited evidence exists to support benefits as they relate to the original stated policy objectives of improving cannabis users’ and public health,” writes study co-author Dr. Benedikt Fischer, from Simon Fraser University, in a media release. “At this stage, cannabis legalization in Canada appears not to have been the public health disaster anticipated by some of its opponents, but it cannot be described as a comprehensive or unequivocal success for public health either.”
In terms of tangible outcomes, data suggests that rates of cannabis use, related emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and incidents of impaired driving due to cannabis have either remained constant or have risen. A positive shift has occurred, though, in the sourcing of the drug. A majority of users now purchase cannabis through legal channels rather than illicit means.
There has also been a notable reduction in cannabis-related arrests, resulting in fewer individuals suffering the stigma and potentially life-long consequences of a criminal record. This has been especially significant among adults and young people. The authors underline these changes as crucial markers of social justice, which might indirectly enhance overall public health.
“These major societal benefits of legalization must be included in any systematic assessments of the policy reform’s impacts,” write the authors.
As Canada moves forward, experts stress the importance of continuous monitoring. This includes keeping a close eye on cannabis usage trends among different groups, the prevalence of disorders linked to excessive cannabis consumption, hospitalization rates, emergency room visits related to the drug, and its broader socioeconomic impacts. Such insights will be crucial in understanding the full spectrum of effects brought about by cannabis legalization.
The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
What potential health benefits does cannabis provide?
Cannabis, when used responsibly and under appropriate guidance. has various potential benefits. According to studies, this may be especially true in the case of medical marijuana.
- Pain Management: Cannabis can alleviate pain, making it an alternative for opioids and other pain relief medications.
- Reduced Inflammation: CBD, a compound in cannabis, has anti-inflammatory properties. This could help with inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Neurological and Mental Disorders: There’s research suggesting that cannabis may benefit those with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Appetite Stimulation: For patients undergoing treatments like chemotherapy, or those with certain conditions like HIV/AIDS, cannabis can stimulate appetite and help combat weight loss.
- Nausea Reduction: Cannabis can reduce feelings of nausea, especially in chemotherapy patients.
- Support for Addiction Recovery: Some studies suggest that cannabis can be an exit drug, helping individuals reduce or eliminate their use of harder substances such as opioids.
- Antibacterial Effects: Some cannabinoids have been found to have antibacterial properties, particularly against MRSA strains resistant to other drugs.
It’s important to note that while many individuals report these benefits, the effects of cannabis can vary depending on the individual, the strain, dosage, method of consumption, and other factors. Also, research in many areas of cannabis benefits is still ongoing, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using cannabis for medical purposes.