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Statement on Visit to CAMH

Honourable senators, as some of you know, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, headquartered in Toronto, is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital as well as one of the world’s leading research centres in its field.

Last week, I attended a CAMH information exchange on cannabis policy and regulation in Canada and Uruguay. This included a discussion between Canadian and Uruguayan experts on approaches to better protecting young users of cannabis from the harms associated with consumption and criminalization. We also visited the CAMH impaired driving simulation program and a Toronto-based licensed cannabis production facility, one of 67 licensed production facilities in Canada.

The harms of cannabis were front and centre in the talks. Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in Canada, and young people in Canada use cannabis more than their peers in most other developed countries. The harms of cannabis include health risks from early and heavy use; the absence of any controls over safety, potency and quality; drug impaired driving; and a broadly entrenched illicit market, which in Canada is valued at around $7 billion annually.

There are also lifelong harms associated with criminal charges, which disproportionately affect indigenous peoples and other racialized Canadians, as well as associated burdens that criminalization has on criminal justice systems and resources.

Given these growing levels of harms, it was very helpful to hear from experts in Canada and Uruguay as they described their respective approaches to legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis. Approaches to tackling drug-impaired driving were also discussed.

We also learned about Canada’s well-established medicinal cannabis regime successfully implemented by the previous government, from production of cannabis through to secure online ordering and delivery to registered users. Canada’s success in implementing this medicinal regime is being studied by several other countries as well as a number of U.S. jurisdictions.

I want to thank CAMH for organizing the program and the Canadian and Uruguayan experts who contributed so much to it. With Bill C-46 arriving in the Senate and Bill C-45 potentially on its way here, it’s clear there will be lots of evidence and expert advice for us to draw on as we do our work.

On that note, a further tranche of materials on Bill C-45 will be delivered to your offices this afternoon, with others to follow. Thank you for the interest that many of you are showing in this important discussion on cannabis reform and regulation.

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