Alberta medical students are meeting with the province on Monday afternoon to request a greater investment towards helping the mental health of young people.
With marijuana set to become legal across Canada on July 1, 40 students from the University of Alberta and University of Calgary will meet with MLAs Monday to discuss investment from marijuana tax revenue towards mental health programs for young Albertans.
“We know that chronic cannabis use can lead to poorer mental health and that people with mental illness are more likely to develop cannabis dependence,” University of Alberta Medical Students’ Association spokesperson Howie Wu said.
“Other provinces, like Québec and New Brunswick, are addressing this risk by creating dedicated funds for prevention and education programs financed by their cannabis sales revenues.”
The students are asking the government to provide funding towards programs for young adults and children at risk of adverse childhood experiences.
The group is also recommending the creation of a Cannabis and Youth Advisory Board to help guide prevention, education and intervention efforts.
“Young people have the highest rates of cannabis use in Canada, yet brain development doesn’t stop until the mid-20s,” Calgary Medical Students Association spokesperson Adom Bondzi-Simpson. “Additionally, young people have the highest rates of mental illness in Canada.”
The feds have proposed giving provincial and territorial governments half of the estimated $1-billion annual excise tax take.
But The Canadian Press learned Finance Minister Bill Morneau and his officials have signalled a willingness to increase that share during discussions with their provincial and territorial counterparts.
Provinces would be required to use the extra money to helping municipalities cope with the impact of legalizing recreational pot.
“We know that the lion’s share of the cost are going to be bore by provincial jurisdictions, whether it’s healthcare services or policing services,” Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said.
“It’s important to us that we have the tools we need to keep our roads and workplaces safe, to ensure it (marijuana) stays out of the hands of children and to ensure we’re addressing the illicit market and cutting out organized crime.”
It hasn’t been revealed yet how much more the provincial share could be.
The students will share their suggestions and concerns with members of each political party.
— With files from The Canadian Press