The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) released a report to open discussion about policy options for marijuana use in this country. The report, Cannabis Regulation: Lessons Learned from Colorado and Washington State, aims to help promote a national dialogue that will inform “made in Canada” policy options to minimize the potential negative health, social, economic and criminal justice impacts of marijuana use in Canada.
CCSA led delegations to Colorado and Washington states in February and August 2015, about a year after retail sales of cannabis began in each jurisdiction with the goal of collecting the best available information to support evidence-informed policy advice. These two states are using different regulatory frameworks which provided the opportunity to compare the models in terms of both implementation and impact. The delegations met with stakeholders from a range of perspectives, such as public health, regulation, government, enforcement, prevention and the cannabis industry.
In Canada, reliable indicators and data for sound policy are based on evidence, public health objectives and human rights standards, including harm reduction. These factors are integral to the new approaches that are being considered.
The delegations also heard the importance of assessing impacts and making incremental changes instead of rapid changes. The need to invest in effective implementation was another common message from stakeholders in both Colorado and Washington. It was also stated that adequate time should be allocated to:
- Bringing diverse partners together from the beginning and promoting open, consistent communication and collaborative problem-solving;
- Establishing comprehensive baseline data and conducting rigorous, ongoing data collection to monitor impact;
- Developing a strong regulatory framework and the capacity to administer it;
- Investing in a public health approach that builds capacity in prevention, education and treatment;
- Developing a comprehensive communications strategy to convey details of the regulations prior to implementation, so that the public and other stakeholders understand what is permitted, as well as the risks and harms associated with use;
- Ensuring consistent enforcement of regulations by investing in training and tools for those responsible for enforcement, particularly to prevent and address impaired driving and diversion to youth, and to control the black market.
For more information, please read the report.