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Canada’s Largest Addiction Teaching Hospital Calls for Marijuana Legalization With Tight Controls

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, took the bold step of calling for legalization of marijuana, subjected to very strict controls.

Their policy recommendation is a clear reminder that being anti-prohibition is no way the same as being pro-marijuana, even though the media often inappropriately confuses the two. The CAMH believes marijuana use is potentially harmful and should be discouraged, which is why they support legalization.

The reason they support legalization is they acknowledge prohibition has failed at stopping people from using marijuana and point out that, “Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.” At the same time, marijuana prohibition makes marijuana use more dangerous since it is not tested for safety, enriches criminal organizations, and discourages people from seeking treatment.

They believe the best path forward is legalize marijuana for adults but put it under extremely tight controls. Their ten regulations guidelines are:

  1. Establish a government monopoly on sales. Control board entities with
    a social responsibility mandate provide an effective means of controlling consumption and reducing harm.
  2. Set a minimum age for cannabis purchase and consumption. Sales or supply of cannabis products to underage individuals should be penalized.
  3. Limit availability. Place caps on retail density and limits on hours of sale.
  4. Curb demand through pricing. Pricing policy should curb demand for cannabis while minimizing the opportunity for continuation of lucrative black markets. It should alsoencourage use of lower?harm products over higher?harm products.
  5. Curtail higher?risk products and formulations. This would include higher?potency formulations and products designed to appeal to youth.
  6. Prohibit marketing, advertising, and sponsorship. Products should be sold in plain packaging with warnings about risks of use.
  7. Clearly display product information. In particular, products should be tested and labelled for THC and CBD (cannabidiol) content.
  8. Develop a comprehensive framework to address and prevent cannabis?impaired driving. Such a framework should include prevention, education, and enforcement.
  9. Enhance access to treatment and expand treatment options. Include a spectrum of options from brief interventions for at?risk users to more intensive interventions.
  10. Invest in education and prevention. Both general (e.g. to promote lower?risk cannabis use guidelines) and targeted (e.g. to raise awareness of the risks to specific groups, such as adolescents or people with a personal or family history of mental illness) initiatives are needed.

While you might not agree with every policy recommendation, it is very good to see debate continue its move from whether we should legalize marijuana to what is the best way to regulate it. I hope more groups across the spectrum weigh in.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at