In Ontario, adults ages 19 and older can now legally purchase, possess and use cannabis. At Public Health, our role is to help local residents understand that just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. Cannabis can impact your health, and we’re here to make sure that message is being heard loud and clear in the community. We’re talking about weed.
Using local data to address local needs
Earlier this year we put out a survey to gauge what people in Wellington and Dufferin Counties and the City of Guelph know about cannabis, whether and how they use it or intend to use it after legalization, and if people are aware of the potential health impacts. The results will be presented at a future Board of Health meeting, and will give us a baseline from which to measure the local impacts of legalization.
Some of the key findings from the survey include:
- Among people who aren’t current users (haven’t used within the past 12 months), almost two-thirds don’t plan to try it once it’s legal.
- Among those who said they currently use cannabis, about 23 percent said they use it daily. However, less than half of current users agreed that using daily (or almost daily) can result in problems with memory, learning or decision-making.
- Less than half of respondents were aware that the effects of edibles might not be felt for 30 minutes to 2 hours or more after eating them.
- Among current cannabis users, only 61 percent thought that using it while pregnant could harm the baby. (However, like alcohol, no amount of cannabis is known to be safe for your baby while pregnant.)
We also met with several diverse groups of young people to identify the health issues most important to the under-25 age group. We heard that mental health issues, addiction, a safe source, medical benefits, stress/anxiety relief, ways to reduce harm, and learning/memory topped their list. A smaller group of youth also helped shape the direction of our “Talking About Weed” education campaign videos, providing creative input, feedback and even their acting skills.
Public Health’s role
Cannabis use can have health risks, including:
- Addiction and mental illness
- Impacts on pregnancies, breastfeeding and child development
- Impacts on learning and memory
To raise awareness about these health effects, and to address the knowledge gaps and areas of concern identified by local residents, we’ve launched a campaign called “Talking About Weed”. You can view all of the campaign videos on our website, or look for them at local movie theatres and on social media in the coming weeks.
Our website at www.talkingaboutweed.ca also provides more in-depth information about the health effects of cannabis use, and provides local resources you can reach out to for support.
We’d like to thank The Gambling Research Exchange Ontario (GREO) for providing funding for this video campaign, as well as acknowledge and thank the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy, youth participants and other community partners for their valuable input and participation.
The legalization of cannabis is a significant change for Public Health. However, we have experience to draw on from our roles relating to education, harm reduction, policy and research for tobacco, alcohol and illicit substances like opioids.
The results of the survey and response to this awareness campaign will help inform the programs and services we offer in the future. We’re here to start the conversation. Let’s talk about weed.