Article by Susan Lunn, CBC News
With the legalization of recreational cannabis use just months away, the federal government is “stepping a little into the dark,” according to the scientist who helped create pot use guidelines for Canada.
Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said cannabis is a complex drug — and there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effects.
“We’re stepping a little into the dark, into the fog, with this step forward for legalization,” Fischer said.
Even MP Bill Blair, the federal government’s point man on pot, has said there’s a need for more scientific evidence to help people make responsible choices once they’re able to buy marijuana legally.
“I think we need to continue to work hard to identify what is a safe level of use, what effects this could have. We have a lot of anecdotal evidence and frankly not a lot of good health evidence to help people make healthy choices,” Blair told CBC.
He said young people in particular need access to better science.
“We have the highest rates of cannabis use in the world, and clearly just trying to frighten them into abstinence hasn’t worked. I think we should inform them into healthier choices,” Blair said.
New money for research
The recent federal budget included new money for cannabis research — $20 million over five years to be divided between the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction.
The budget also set aside almost a billion dollars for Canada’s three granting councils, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), to conduct general research that will include marijuana.
Dr. Samuel Weiss is the scientific director of neurosciences, mental health and addiction at CIHR. He’s also co-ordinating government-wide research on cannabis use.