Legalization of Cannabis: Background and Considerations for Practitioners
Aug 30, 2018

The October 17, 2018 date is soon approaching for the legalization of cannabis in Canada, and while there is still much current debate among government, private enterprise, community and health agencies, and the public, it seems timely to put forth some Canadian StatsCan data that has been collected with respect to cannabis use.  

Based on cross-sectional data collected from the 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS), the main findings that may have implications to direct practice within RAAM clinics are as follows (for subject group definitions and analytical techniques, please consult the article):

• Cannabis users, regardless of the reason for use in the previous year, are more likely to be young, male, daily cigarette smokers, and heavy drinkers
(9.5% of Canadians aged 15 and older – or 2.8 million – used cannabis in the previous year for non-medicinal purposes exclusively)

• Daily and near daily cannabis use is common among self-defined medical and non-medical cannabis users
(47.2% reported using cannabis daily or near-daily; more common among males and people aged 45 and older)

• Among experienced cannabis users, the most common harm related response was having a strong desire or urge to use
(reported mostly by daily and near-daily users)

• Pain is the main medical reason for using cannabis
(other reasons included anxiety, nerves, depression and insomnia)

• Almost 1 in 6 cannabis users, who used in the previous year, reported using other illicit drugs
(this is a substantially higher proportion than observed for those who did not report cannabis use)

Practitioners may find that individuals’ self-reporting of cannabis use may increase once legalization comes into effect.  In addition, while assessing clients, practitioners may want to consider inquiring about cannabis use, its frequency and whether for medicinal or non-medicinal purposes, in order to determine a suitable treatment plan. Also, practitioners may find an increased need to educate clients on the risks associated with cannabis use and encourage harm reduction strategies, especially, if in the context of other substance use and/or mental or physical health conditions.

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