Move quickly to educate public about cannabis harms and use cannabis revenue to fund mental health, addictions services
(Sept. 8, 2017, TORONTO) – The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division is pleased the recommendations in its submission to government are reflected in the province’s approach to the legalization of cannabis. However, CMHA Ontario is urging the province to commit to two important initiatives related to the sale and regulation of cannabis.
“What we didn’t hear today were specific details about how the province would use the revenue from cannabis sales,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO of CMHA Ontario. “We strongly recommend that the government commit all revenue from cannabis sales to enhance mental health and addictions services in the province.”
The province has continually recognized that Ontarians need greater access to mental health and addictions services at the right time and place. And the popularity of anti-stigma campaigns encourages people to reach out and seek support. However, the mental health and addictions sector remains severely underfunded and ill-equipped to address the demand for service.
“The sale of cannabis offers the government a prime opportunity to correct historical funding inequities and help increase the availability of mental health and addictions services that Ontarians are seeking,” Quenneville said. CMHA Ontario also urges the government to move quickly and implement a comprehensive public education campaign about the harms related to cannabis use. The government has run campaigns in the past, such as those that combat drinking and driving or smoking during pregnancy. However, the impact of those campaigns is greater over time.
“We don’t have a lot of time before cannabis sales begin so the educational campaign needs to start now,” Quenneville said. “In particular, we believe that awareness initiatives must focus on youth and high-risk users as they may be vulnerable to the impacts of cannabis use.” These two recommendations are highlighted in CMHA Ontario’s submission to government, which focuses on a public health approach to cannabis sales and regulation. To that end, CMHA Ontario is pleased the government has agreed to setting the age limit at 19, regulating where cannabis is sold, and having trained and knowledgeable staff to sell products in a safe and socially-responsible manner.
“We’ve learned many lessons from the sale and regulation of alcohol and tobacco in Ontario and we’re encouraged the government is using those examples to guide this process,” Quenneville said. Fast Facts: • Ontario spends approximately $3.5 billion of the entire $51 billion health budget on mental health and addictions. • The burden of mental illness and addictions in Ontario is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers, and more than seven times that of all infectious diseases.
To arrange an interview, please contact: Joe Kim, Director, Communications Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario 416-977-5580 ext. 4141 firstname.lastname@example.org