BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Health Implications of the recent Legalization of Cannabis in Canada




Currently, marijuana is the most commonly used recreational drug in the United States and Canada. The Cannabis Act available on the government of Canada website creates a legal framework for regulating the production, distribution, sale, possession and use of cannabis across the country. The three major goals of this Act include:

  • Keep cannabis out of the hands of youth
  • Keep profits out of the hands of criminals
  • Protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis

Effective October 17, 2018 and subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, adults who are 18 years of age or older would be able legally to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults, buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers, grow cannabis from licensed seed or seedlings and make cannabis products such as food and drinks at home.

The Act recognizes the use of cannabis for medical purposes and allows access for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider. Using factors such as age restrictions and restricted promotion of cannabis, the Act limits the accessibility of cannabis by under-age youth. The Act also protects public health by creating stringent safety and quality regulations as well as public education to raise awareness about safety measures and potential health risks. The government has committed about $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities.

Rationale for legalization:

To reduce criminalization: Criminalizing cannabis does not prevent young people from using the drug; instead, it traps many Canadians in the criminal justice system. Over 50% of all drug offences reported by police are cannabis-related. In 2016 specifically, over 23,000 cannabis-related charges were laid. Arresting and prosecuting these offenses is costly for the Canadian criminal justice system and these charges confer severe long-term consequences on the individuals charged. Decriminalizing cannabis for adults will keep Canadians who consume cannabis out of the criminal justice system and reduce burden on the courts.

Health implications:

Many people argue that legalizing cannabis will do more harm than good since it will become easily available, accessible and misused. The Canadian Pediatric Society and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health publicly disclosed that marijuana is harmful and can negatively affect the brain, especially that of young people. Marijuana is also toxic to neurons, and its regular use can actually change developing brains. Based on evidence that suggests the human brain continues to mature until age 25, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recommends a minimum age of 21 to purchase and use marijuana.

Some Canadians believe that recent legalization of marijuana reflects the fact that the government is only interested in hastening the delivery of a campaign promise without being patient and careful enough to analyze the health impacts of the policy. Many also fear that the legalization of marijuana will significantly increase impaired driving and road accidents.

Impacts of short-term use include impaired memory, judgment and motor coordination, paranoia and psychosis while impacts of long-term use include addiction, impaired cognition and brain development, poor educational outcome and reduced personal and life satisfaction.

Comments are closed.