The federal government has legalized recreational cannabis. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) wants to ensure the public knows what this means locally.
While recreational cannabis is now legal for adults, it is still illegal in Ontario for anyone under 19 to purchase, possess or use recreational cannabis.
“Legal doesn’t mean harmless. No drug is without risk,” said Michelle Lyne, program manager of Community Health at the HNHU. “Youth, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and people who have a history of mental illness or addiction should not use cannabis, unless prescribed and monitored by a healthcare provider.”
“The Health Unit is most concerned about young people starting to use cannabis. The health risks to young people are serious and multifaceted,” said Dr. Shankar Nesathurai, medical officer of health at the HNHU.
Driving under the influence of cannabis is also a major public health concern. Cannabis use increases your risk of being involved in a collision. Combining cannabis and alcohol increases this risk further. Using cannabis and driving is illegal and dangerous. Never drive high or be a passenger in a vehicle with a driver who is impaired by cannabis.
In Colorado, where cannabis has already been legalized, there has been a significant increase in poisonings among children who accidentally eat or drink cannabis. Always keep cannabis out of sight and reach of children and pets. If your child consumes cannabis by accident, call the Ontario Poison Centre 1-800-268-9017 and seek medical attention right away.
The HNHU’s website has information on the health effects of cannabis as well as resources for parents talking to youth and potential cannabis users. A coordinated campaign on cannabis and driving will be rolled out in 2019. The HNHU is also planning community and school-based programming to help prevent youth cannabis use.
If you choose to use cannabis, you can lower your risk by following Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, which can be found at www.hnhu.org.