A Public Health Approach to Non-Medical Cannabis

As District of Stewart Council will adopt few by-laws at the coming meeting, I want to share with citizens the letter from the Northern Health. I feel that this is a very important matter for many people, living in Stewart and Council should consider Health Authorities recommendations.

Multiple sectors of society, and all levels of government, have roles to play in a comprehensive public health approach to cannabis legalization. Local governments, in particular, can adopt regulations aimed at reducing youth exposure to non-medical cannabis, high-risk use in general (e.g., heavy or frequent use, use with other substances), and unwanted exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke and vapour. Local governments can also support increasing public knowledge and awareness, to support risk reduction and destigmatization, without normalization or promotion. Local U]dS`\[S\bal Xc`WaRWQbW]\ W\ h]\W\U' ZO\R caS' PcaW\Saa ZWQS\aW\U' PcWZRW\U Q]RSa' \cWaO\QS by-laws, and enforcement, as well as their ability to advocate to higher levels of government, can all be leveraged to promote a public health approach to cannabis.4 Some specific areas of best practice5 where local governments can support a public health approach include: 

1. Restrict public consumption of cannabis. By limiting where cannabis can be consumed, local governments can reduce unwanted exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke or vapour, and can reduce the visibility of cannabis consumption for youth, making it less normative, and more likely that youth delay initiation or never start:

' Prohibit public cannabis consumption wherever tobacco consumption is already prohibited, ideally including workplaces, enclosed public spaces, health authority and school board property, transit shelters, common areas of apartment buildings and community care facilities, and areas frequented by children and youth, such as parks, beaches, pools, playgrounds, and sports fields; and,

' Prohibit smoking/vaping lounges, including mobile units.

2. Allow local sales of non-medical cannabis in order to reduce the uncontrolled black market, but with certain limits intended to reduce exposure to youth and harmful patterns of consumption in the general population:

' Adopt and enforce strict regulations prohibiting the sale of cannabis to persons under 19 years of age;

' Require that cannabis retail staff undergo mandatory training regarding product potency and how to mitigate the associated risks of cannabis use;

' Prohibit the sale of cannabis by vending machines or other self-service and/or dispensing devices;

' Restrict public advertising of cannabis sales, such as sandwich boards, flyers, and sign spinners; ' Prohibit cannabis sales where alcohol or tobacco is sold;

' Establish a minimum separation of 300 metres between cannabis retail outlets, to limit overall density of cannabis availability in the community;

' Establish a minimum separation of 300 metres between cannabis and alcohol outlets, to discourage the higher-risk use of cannabis and alcohol together;

' Establish a minimum separation of 600 metres between cannabis retail outlets and schools, recreation centres, parks and other areas where children and youth frequent, to reduce the visibility and availability of cannabis to youth; and,

' Limit hours of sale to at least correspond with alcohol sale policy, although greater restrictions would provide additional health benefits.

3. Visibly enforce laws against cannabis - impaired driving, including public awareness campaigns about roadside checks. 

4. Collaborate or coordinate with the health sector to support education and awareness of the risks of cannabis use, and ways to reduce these risks:

' Develop, endorse, and/or collaborate in public education campaigns with tailored and relevant messaging, targeting youth especially, including information about cannabis laws, risks, safer use, and resources for treatment;

' Promote messages aligned with /;G;>;RK 3Hwer Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines to support cannabis users to make healthier choices and reduce risks associated with cannabis use, including: delay initiation until adulthood, limit frequency and quantity per use, use a lower THC content, do not drive or operate machinery within 6 hours of use, do not use with other substances (e.g., alcohol), and do not use if pregnant; and,

' Invest in, collaborate on, or otherwise support data collection and analysis regarding cannabis availability, use, and related harms, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of various strategies to reduce harms from cannabis use.

Several of the above restrictions are already required under provincial and/or federal law, but local government can reinforce and strengthen these restrictions through setting higher standards, imposing additional penalties, and of course enforcement actions. We recommend consulting the Municipal Guide to Cannabis Legalization, published by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which provides extensive practical guidance on these matters. We also understand that certain specific recommendations may not be feasible in very small communities, e.g. relating to the physical separation of cannabis retail from alcohol retail, or from areas where youth congregate. We still encourage local governments to follow the spirit, if not the letter, of the recommendations, e.g. striving for whatever physical separation is possible. Northern Health Medical Health Officers strongly caution against pursuing economic gain from the legalization of non-medical cannabis use. When cannabis production and sales are significantly motivated by revenue generation, this creates an incentive to encourage greater cannabis consumption by the public, and a disincentive to establishing appropriate restrictions on cannabis availability. Promoting and protecting health should be the primary concern, whereas revenue generation should be a secondary consideration. To the extent that revenue is generated, we recommend that it be used to fund educational campaigns, health promotion activities, and/or data collection and analyses that support the overall public health-related goals of cannabis legalization.

We also recommend taking care to ensure that policies, bylaws, enforcement strategies, and related activities do not impose disproportionate burdens on more marginalized groups, who may, for instance, face limited opportunities to participate in the cannabis or general economy, or who may not have access to private spaces in which to consume cannabis. Finally, we would like to note that alcohol, tobacco, and opioids continue to cause a greater overall burden of disease and injury than cannabis does. We encourage local governments to take the opportunity from the upcoming legislative changes to cannabis, to review how the harms associated with other substances, might also be reduced through local government action. For example, restrictions on public consumption should include cannabis, tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other combustible products; and many of the strategies we recommend to reduce harmful levels of cannabis consumption through reasonable limits on access, also apply to alcohol. Many local governments in northern BC have already taken positive steps to reduce the negative impacts of these substances, and we thank you for this effort. Cannabis legalization represents both a challenge and an opportunity for local governments to foster the development of healthy, vibrant communities across BC. We hope you find the above recommendations useful as part of a public health approach to substance use. For more W\T]`[ObW]\' ]` b] Tc`bVS` RWaQcaa g]c` Q][[c\Wbgla O^^`]OQV b] \]\-medical cannabis or other substances, be welcome to connect with your local Medical Health Officer or Environmental Health Officer. 

Information Bulletin:  Fire Prohibitions Across NW Fire Centre

POSTED: May 24, 2019

Please see the attached Information Bulletin from the Province regarding burning prohibitions in effect as of Friday, May 24th, 2019

News Release

POSTED: April 11, 2019

The District of Stewart has been successful in their grant application submitted to the 2019 Community Child Care Space Creation Program in the amount of $585,731. Click on the link for details   /docs/news_release.pdf

Information Bulletin:  Warmer Weather Prompts Outdoor Burning Precautions

POSTED: April 1, 2019

Please see the bulletin from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and BC Wildfire Service.

Invitation to participate in the Patient Partner Steering Committee

POSTED: May 23, 2019

This committee will guide a study called "Optimizing Patient Experience in Medical Travel" - if you are interested in participating, please click on the invitation letter from Denise Jaworsky & Dave Sohi for details and contact info.

Emergency Preparedness Week

POSTED: May 9, 2019

Watch for your Household Emergency Plan booklet in your mail

CMSD82 News Release:  Jocelynn Drew, Bear Valley School Principal Appointment

POSTED: May 7, 2019

Please see the attached News Release from Coast Mountains Board of Education School District 82 announcing the appointment of Jocelynn Drew as the School Principal at Bear Valley School. 

Discover BC’s Stewart-Cassiar Region

POSTED: February 21, 2018

Take a look at this Auto Tour video produced in conjunction with Destination BC, Kermode Tourism, and the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine-displaying spectacular views of scenery near Hazelton, New Hazelton, the Nass Valley and Stewart, with Dr. Joseph Gosnell narrating:  www.stewartcassiarhighway.com 

Salmon Glacier Auto Tour Brochure

POSTED: February 21, 2018

Here is an excellent resource to accompany you on your travel to visit the spectacular Salmon Glacier - Auto Tour Brochure

BC Hydro Installation of Bird Guarding at Stewart Substation

POSTED: January 8, 2018

Please see the attached information regarding BC Hydro's recent installation of Bird Guarding at the Stewart Substation