Cannabis leaves

Public Health perspective on cannabis retail locations

December 14, 2018

Public Health has provided recommendations to municipalities as they consider whether to opt-out of cannabis retail stores by January 22, 2019.

While it’s important for cannabis to be accessible to address the illegal market, that accessibility needs to be balanced with an evidence-informed approach that protects public health and safety.

We know from alcohol and tobacco that increased availability of a substance leads to increased use. Increased use leads to increased harms.

Since the role of municipalities regarding store locations and the impacts of cannabis retail availability are not yet well-understood, Public Health’s recommendation is to wait until more information is available before making a permanent decision to opt-in.

The decision to opt-out can be reversed, but any decision to opt-in is final.

Key issues to consider

  • In other places where cannabis has been legalized, a large number of retail stores have opened. In Colorado, there were in 491 retail cannabis stores (as of June 2017); more than the number of Starbucks and McDonald’s.
  • Cannabis can cause harm by leading to addiction, mental health problems and respiratory issues; affecting learning and memory; and leading to injuries and fatalities (such as motor vehicle accidents).
  • Retail stores can’t be within 150 metres of schools, but there are no restrictions for retail locations around universities, hospitals, playgrounds, sports fields or daycares.

Public Health is not opposed to legal cannabis, but since the impacts of different retail models across Canada are not yet known, it is important to consider a precautionary approach with stricter regulations to try and minimize health and social problems.

Read our full report here: Cannabis is No Ordinary Commodity: Public health considerations for municipalities on cannabis retail outlets