With cannabis now legal for recreational use, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is able to assist in sorting through the maze of questions about legalization of cannabis with web-based information on safer use.
“Legal does not mean harmless,” says Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health. “The health unit recognizes the importance of considering the health impacts of using cannabis. Strict health-focused regulations are needed to protect youth and ensure public health and safety. If people choose to use, we want them to know the importance of moderation and safer practices.”
Cannabis products have become more sophisticated over the last 20 years or so. Depending on the product, the effects can range from gentle relaxation to disorganized thoughts and severe anxiety. And there is growing research about the long-range health impacts of overuse. Young people are particularly at risk.
“Regular use of cannabis during the teen years can harm the developing brain,” Gardner said. “Teens can reduce their risks by waiting as long as possible before beginning use – ideally until their mid-twenties when the brain is fully developed.”
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid use, as active ingredients from cannabis can be passed from mother to the fetus or nursing baby. For others, the advice is to educate yourself, start slow, take in small quantities, limit use and know the product you purchase.
The health unit’s website, smdhu.org, contains information about the health effects of cannabis, a list of tips on safer use and information about cannabis and youth. Links to federal and provincial regulations related to use of cannabis are also provided, along with the new lower-risk cannabis use guideline.
It is illegal to drive while impaired. Cannabis affects your judgement and coordination, slows your reaction time and increases your chance of being in a collision. Do not allow yourself to become a passenger with an impaired driver.
In Ontario, the laws now permit cannabis use by people 19 and over. Individuals can possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and may grow up to four plants per residence. Currently, the products can only be purchased online through the Ontario Cannabis Store.
The new Smoke-Free Ontario Act prohibits smoking or vaping cannabis wherever it is illegal to smoke tobacco products. This includes no smoking or vaping cannabis inside workplaces or public places, including work vehicles; in all common areas of multi-unit housing buildings; in reserved seating areas at sports and entertainment venues; on playgrounds and sporting areas and within 20 metres of those locations; in a vehicle or boat being driven by or under someone’s care or control; on hospital property and within nine metres of a hospital entrance; on bar and restaurant patios and within nine metres of the patio; on the grounds of a community recreational facility and within 20 metres of the grounds; on the grounds of a school and within 20 metres of the grounds; and in child-care centres, or where early years programs are provided, or in places where home child care is provided, even if children aren’t present.
Visit province’s website at Ontario.ca/cannabis for full details.
Roberto Valdivia photo