Canadian Mental Health Association Report Recommends Cautious Approach to Legalization

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Canadian Mental Health Association report recommends cautious approach to legalization Ban cannabis smoking in vehicles, fund mental health initiatives

As Canada lines up its efforts to legalize cannabis, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has released a report that, among other things, proposes that the country implement a zero tolerance to consumption of cannabis in vehicles for both drivers and passengers.

It’s just one of several recommendations made by a Canadian Mental Health Association report released this week after being submitted for consideration to the Province of Ontario. The organization also recommends the government implement a marijuana version of the Smart Serve program that alcohol serves must undertake in Ontario, and that tax revenue be funneled into mental health services.

Some of the CMHA’s recommendations stand in contrast to the official Government of Canada proposals that have found their way into the latest draft of the Cannabis Act. These include the organization’s calls to decriminalize personal possession of cannabis by youth and replace criminal sanctions with “alternatives such as mandatory education, police referrals to community based mental health and addictions programs, community service, counselling and other supports.” The Cannabis Act does decriminalize both the possession and sharing of cannabis by youth, but only up to 5 grams. If youth are apprehended above that amount, they will be dealt with by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. There are some similarities between the proposals, as the YCJA actually does allow the imposition of the non-criminal sanctions sought by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

The report recommends a minimum age of 19, which would mirror the age for alcohol sales in Ontario. This appears to be one recommendation that may be taken up by the Ontario government, as it strives to both keep cannabis out of the hands of youth while also trying to undermine the current black market.

One recommendation that might be music to the ears of premier Kathleen Wynne is the CMHA’s suggestion that cannabis be sold in a highly regulated environment, with the establishment of a Cannabis Control Board similar to the province’s Alcohol and Gaming Commission.

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