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Cannabis: Legal Does Not Mean Harmless

Timmins, Ontario - Wednesday, October 17, 2018

With the legalization of cannabis on October 17, the Porcupine Health Unit wants the public to be informed of the potential risks of cannabis use.

Dr. Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit, urges community members to learn about the risks of cannabis use and second-hand exposure; and encourages parents to talk with their children. Catton says, “There is reliable evidence that cannabis can have negative effects on your physical and mental health.” Some of these health effects include impaired coordination and judgement, poor memory, as well as altered thinking and perceptions. There are negative effects on lung function, associations with depression and anxiety, as well as a chronic nausea and vomiting. Impaired judgement and coordination may lead to other risks, such as trying other substances. Driving any vehicle — including recreational ATVs, snowmobiles, and boats — while under the influence of cannabis is a significant safety concern.

Dr. Catton notes particular concerns with the effects on children and youth, “brain development continues until age 25, resulting in greater risks for this age group.” With increases in mental health concerns across Porcupine Health Unit communities, early cannabis use needs to be discussed at all levels. It is associated with anxiety, and in those with a family or personal history of any mental health concerns should avoid cannabis use. Women who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using cannabis as well as second-hand exposure to cannabis smoke. The Health Unit has several teams working on this important public health issue.

Angie Royal, a Public Health Nurse with the Porcupine Health Unit highlights the Health Unit will be providing parent information sessions in partnership with local school boards. She notes, “We will continue to engage with our communities to ensure everyone is informed about cannabis. We hope to increase awareness of the risks, as well as the low-risk use guidelines for those who elect to use cannabis”.

In response to public health concerns regarding harms associated with tobacco and cannabis use and vaping, the Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA) imposes rules which include strict controls on the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes. Inspection staff will be educating the public on this new regulation which is essential to protecting all community members from the negative effects of second hand exposure Dr. Catton adds, “Whatever the regulations may say, we hope that all community members become aware of the risks of second-hand exposure and are considerate of those around them, even when outside.”

The Porcupine Health Unit is located in Northeastern Ontario, serving the entire Cochrane District and Hornepayne, in Algoma District. The main office is located in Timmins, Ontario, with branch offices in Cochrane, Hearst, Hornepayne, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Matheson, Moosonee and Smooth Rock Falls.