Statements & Speeches

Hon. Ya’ara Saks, P.C., M.P., Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health – Cannabis Use (Question Period)

March 21, 2024

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: We have much more research about cannabis and mental health now than when we passed the Cannabis Act almost six years ago.

A September 2023 report in the journal JAMA Psychiatry showed that, in Ontario, over 40% of males aged 14 to 24 years with an emergency department visit for cannabis-induced psychosis were diagnosed with schizophrenia within three years. A systematic review of 597 studies in the Journal of Clinical Psychology published in 2022 concluded that both high- and low‑frequency marijuana usage were associated with a significantly increased risk of schizophrenia.

Minister, I’m concerned for the mental health of our young people. When will the government tighten policies to reduce youth cannabis use?

Hon. Ya’ara Saks, P.C., M.P., Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health: Thank you for the question. As mentioned earlier, as the mother of two teenage daughters, this is something that is certainly top of mind for me.

I was recently at the Hospital for Sick Children meeting with Dr. Yaron Finkelstein, one of the leading researchers at this point in time on child poisonings when it comes to edibles, but also with the trends that we are seeing and the data you referenced in terms of the risk of psychosis for young people in using cannabis.

That is why, when we embarked upon the legislation, we had a robust prevention and education program that was rolled out. We understand that we need to continue to do that. It is an important part of the move forward.

Similar to what we have done with youth and the Know More program related to opioids or trade unions to ease the burden on the toxic drug crisis, more work can certainly be done on the education in this space. That being said, today, the What We Heard Report will be tabled in Parliament on the first five-year review of our legislation. There is deep consideration there on how we ensure the safety and protection of our youth.

Senator Seidman: Minister, in 2018, in response to my question at committee as we studied Bill C-45, Minister Blair said that in a regulated environment, young people would have better information about the risks of cannabis use, which would deter the early onset of and reduce the frequency and potency of its use. But in 2023, 43% of Canadians aged 16 to 19 reported using cannabis in the last year, up from 36% in 2018.

The growing body of evidence of harm must inform regulations. When will that happen?

Ms. Saks: Thank you for the question.

I will say that the data we have seen in terms of cannabis use among youth has not significantly increased in the time since the implementation of the legislation. That being said, more work should be done in terms of education and prevention; I agree with you wholeheartedly.