2. Cannabis Use in Ontario

Canada has one of the highest rates of youth cannabis consumption in the world — among 15 to 19 year olds, about 23% use cannabis daily — but Canadian youth use less of other substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, than youth in other countries.[1]UNICEF Office of Research (2013). ‘Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview’, Innocenti report card 11, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence[2]Statistics Canada. (2015). Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey: summary of results for 2013. Ottawa, Ont. Retrieved from: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/science research-sciences-recherches/data-donnees/ctads-ectad/summary-sommaire-2013-eng.php According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, 19% of Ontario’s post-secondary students that were surveyed used cannabis in the previous 30 days. More men (22%) used this substance than women (17%).[3]American College Health Association. (2016). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Ontario Canada reference group, executive summary spring 2016.Retrieved from: http://oucha.ca/pdf/2016_NCHA-II_WEB_SPRING_2016_ONTARIO_CANADA_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf

In April 2017, the government of Canada introduced Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, which would legalize and regulate the non-medical use of cannabis. Provinces are responsible for deciding aspects such as minimum age of legal use, and where cannabis can be purchased and used.[4]Government of Ontario (2017). Cannabis legalization. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cannabis-legalization Bill C-45 is expected to become law in late 2018.

Cannabis legalization is a significant shift in substance-use legislation in Canada. Previously, it was classified as a schedule II drug, making it illegal to grow, possess, distribute, and sell cannabis for non-medical purposes.[1] In response to Bill C-45, Ontario passed Bill 174, the Cannabis Act, to support the legalization of non-medical use of cannabis and made related changes to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Highway Traffic Act. On October 17, 2018 Ontario passed Bill 36, the Cannabis Statute Law Amendment Act, 2018, which renamed the Cannabis Act as the Cannabis Control Act, 2017 and also amended the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017. Together, these Acts set provincial requirements on prohibitions, possession, places of use, enforcement, and retail and distribution of cannabis.

[1]Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (2017). Canadian drug summary: cannabis. Retrieved from: http://www.ccdus.ca/Resource%20Library/CCSA-Canadian-Drug-Summary-Cannabis-2017-en.pdf

Health Canada defines non-medical use as “use for a range of non-medical reasons, such as for enjoyment, pleasure, amusement, or for spiritual, lifestyle, and other non-medical reasons.”[5]Health Canada (2017). Canadian cannabis survey. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/canadian-cannabis-survey-2017-summary.html

Legalization presents an opportunity to develop a health-focused response that aims to reduce the potential harms to people and communities associated with the use of cannabis,[6]Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2014). CAMH cannabis policy framework. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/camhs-cannabis-policy-framework-legalization-with-regulation including unique harms and risks which emerge in campus settings. The government of Ontario’s Safe and Sensible Framework to Manage Cannabis Legalization identified the prevention of cannabis-related harms and harm reduction approaches as part of the province’s overall response.[7]Government of Ontario (2017). Ontario releases safe and sensible framework to manage federal legalization of cannabis. Retrieved from: https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2017/09/ontario-releases-safe-and-sensible-framework-to-manage-federal-legalization-of-cannabis.html

Key surveys such as the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS) and the Ontario Student Drug use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) provide campus professionals with useful insights to better understand substance use in student populations. According to the CSTADS, cannabis is the second most common psychoactive substance used by students in grades 7-12, after alcohol.[8]Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (2015). Summary of results: Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2014-2015-summary.html And the 2017 OSDUHS results show that 37% of students in grades 12 used cannabis in the previous year, while 3% used synthetic cannabis in the previous year. Cannabis use among grade 12 students has remained stable since 2011.[9]Boak, A., Hamilton, H. A., Adlaf, E. M., & Mann, R. E. (2017). Drug use among Ontario students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario student drug use and health survey (OSDUHS) (CAMH Research Document Series No. 46). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

In addition to data on use, the OSDUHS collects vital information on perceptions of cannabis use among students. The 2017 results show that 35% of students think cannabis should be legal for adults and students in the older grades were more likely to share this view. As well, 4% of students said they would use more cannabis once legalized and 11% said they would use similar amounts to what they used before legalization.

References   [ + ]

1. UNICEF Office of Research (2013). ‘Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview’, Innocenti report card 11, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence
2. Statistics Canada. (2015). Canadian tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey: summary of results for 2013. Ottawa, Ont. Retrieved from: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/science research-sciences-recherches/data-donnees/ctads-ectad/summary-sommaire-2013-eng.php
3. American College Health Association. (2016). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Ontario Canada reference group, executive summary spring 2016.Retrieved from: http://oucha.ca/pdf/2016_NCHA-II_WEB_SPRING_2016_ONTARIO_CANADA_REFERENCE_GROUP_EXECUTIVE_SUMMARY.pdf
4. Government of Ontario (2017). Cannabis legalization. Retrieved from: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cannabis-legalization
5. Health Canada (2017). Canadian cannabis survey. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/drugs-health-products/canadian-cannabis-survey-2017-summary.html
6. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2014). CAMH cannabis policy framework. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/camh-news-and-stories/camhs-cannabis-policy-framework-legalization-with-regulation
7. Government of Ontario (2017). Ontario releases safe and sensible framework to manage federal legalization of cannabis. Retrieved from: https://news.ontario.ca/mag/en/2017/09/ontario-releases-safe-and-sensible-framework-to-manage-federal-legalization-of-cannabis.html
8. Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (2015). Summary of results: Canadian student tobacco, alcohol and drugs survey. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2014-2015-summary.html
9. Boak, A., Hamilton, H. A., Adlaf, E. M., & Mann, R. E. (2017). Drug use among Ontario students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario student drug use and health survey (OSDUHS) (CAMH Research Document Series No. 46). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
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