Green Party urges feds to better regulate high-THC cannabis

In October 2018, the Government of Canada legalized marijuana, making it readily available to the public.  

But the cannabis produced and sold since legalization is a completely different beast than the “Mary-Jane” that circulated between the 60s and 90s. These new, more potent and addictive strains of marijuana are now beginning to have a long-term, detrimental impact on youth. The Green Party of Canada is calling on the Federal government to better regulate the sale of cannabis to limit the health impacts of more potent strains on youth. 

Earlier strains of marijuana contained around 2% of THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) - the psychoactive component of cannabis – whereas Ontario consumers can now purchase cannabis products with THC concentrations averaging 70-85% and going as high as 90% . 

These high-THC content products are all readily available to and consumed by youth.  What is the danger?

Long-term or heavy use of cannabis, as well as the use of more potent forms of cannabis such as high-THC products can lead to addiction. A 2014 study published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, identified altered brain development, cognitive impairment, symptoms of chronic bronchitis and increased risks of psychosis disorders such as schizophrenia, as some of the adverse health effects attributable to cannabis use. 

A meta-analysis of 11 studies concluded that cannabis use in adolescents is associated with increased suicidality and depression later in life. Up to half of young patients hospitalized for hallucinations or other psychotic symptoms related to cannabis use also go on to develop schizophrenia in adulthood.  

With 41% of high school respondents indicating that cannabis is “fairly easy” to “very easy” to obtain, we must consider the implications these high-THC products can have on the physical and mental health of today’s youth – who are the young adults of tomorrow.

We must take immediate steps to curb the availability and potency of marijuana consumed by youth. The federal government’s Cannabis Act Review now provides an opportunity to advocate for changes that will protect young persons.

In its submission to the Independent Expert Panel on the Cannabis Act, the Green Party of Canada recommends, among other things, that the government:

  • Mandates all cannabis products - including “dab pens” and vaping devices -to include visible and detailed labels that include the THC concentration, the cannabis strain, the name of the growers and producers and the dispensary name (where feasible.)
  • Explores options to reduce young adults’ access to high potency THC, including by limiting the sale of products with THC levels over 10% to people aged 25 and over;
  • Invests in mental health supports, including to university students on campus, to increase preventative options and decrease the use of cannabis products and other drugs as self-medication or coping mechanisms;
  • Recognize that, because of the ongoing harms from colonization, racism, poverty and decades of disenfranchisement,  cannabis, like other substances, has the potential of becoming a coping mechanism for Indigenous youth or adult;
  • Ensure that there are sufficient resources for strong, Indigenous-created and led processes to prevent and combat the abuse of cannabis by young Indigenous persons, notably through the strengthening of educational, cultural, and traditional supports.

For more details, please hereby find the Green Party of Canada’s submission to the Independent Expert Panel.