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ID: 501

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Policy

Topics: Creating Enabling Environments; Drug Policy Reform and Advocacy

Presenting author: François Gagnon

Presenting author biography:

Working at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, Françoishas produced reports and made presentations on various harm reduction programs and services (safe injection services, drug testing at festive events, naloxone distribution, crack material distribution, etc.). His work concerns also concerns cannabis policies in various ways.

Cannabis legalization in Canada: options for a low risk environment in Quebec

François Gagnon, Chapados Maude

Canada’s federal government has announced its intention to legalize the production, distribution and possession of cannabis in the spring of 2017. This initiative has been justified as a way to protect public health and security.

The use of cannabis in Quebec, Canada, is among the highest in the world. The province’s version of prohibition is a relatively mild one. Within the new regulatory environment, powers regarding cannabis would be split between federal and provincial/territorial authorities.

In order to inform Quebec’s public health actors in their understanding of the federal initiative, the Ministère de la santé et services sociaux du Québec asked the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) for an analysis of the related public health issues.

The INSPQ concluded that legalizing cannabis is compatible with public health objectives. It shed light on ways to foster the lowest possible risk environment for people who use cannabis, and identified six necessary conditions for meeting this objective:
• avoid a commercial approach;
• create a public entity to control cannabis production and distribution systems;
• create quality and safety assurance mechanisms for cannabis products;
• develop a flexible, adaptable, governance system;
• develop informational activities;
• set up the medical and non-medical cannabis systems in the respect of their own missions.

The INSPQ also considered various options to implement a not-for-profit approach. It discussed the ins and outs of cannabis cooperatives, personal home production, not-for-profit retail structures with a harm reduction mandate, and a state agency that would act as both a regulatory body and as a monopoly on purchases from private producers.

This presentation will outline the INSPQ’s work and discuss some of the ins and outs for harm reduction of other illegal and legal psychoactive substances.