An association representing doctors in Nova Scotia has its eyes on the green — on Monday it released a list of six recommendations for the government ahead of the planned legalization of cannabis later this year.
Doctors Nova Scotia says their recommendations aim to minimize the harm associated with cannabis use. According to 2012 data from Health Canada, cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Nova Scotia.
“It’s clear that cannabis availability and use must be carefully considered,” said Dr. Tim Holland, chair of the association’s policy and health issues committee.
Doctor’s Nova Scotia says it is important to restrict cannabis use in public places and restrict its availability in a manner similar to tobacco. However, the group stresses that access is not so restricted that it “triggers underground sales.”
“We don’t want cannabis to normalize the act of smoking, which would likely have the negative result of increased rates of cannabis and tobacco use,” said Holland.
Many of the recommendations align with what has already been announced by the provincial government — such as the sale of cannabis through a government monopoly system — but some are unique.
The first recommendation from Doctors Nova Scotia argues that cannabis should be sold through a government monopoly, with a primary objective of protecting public health rather than making money. Doctors Nova Scotia says they want the distinction codified in law.
The province has already announced that they plan to sell cannabis exclusively through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC). The stores will be stand-alone and will not sell liquor and cannabis in the same space.
So far the government has announced nine locations throughout the province.
Doctors Nova Scotia’s second recommendation is that the province establishes and invests in the infrastructure needed to administer a government monopoly system and enforce the restrictions put in place by the province.
They also recommend that the province establish a pricing and taxation structure that is designed to curb the demand for cannabis. They recommend basing prices on the concentration of THC found in the strain up for sale.
Doctors Nova Scotia says the price should initially be set low enough to maximize purchases in the legal market, eventually increasing as time goes on.
The association believes that the taxation model should prohibit discount pricing of cannabis, happy hour pricing, bulk purchases or coupons.
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Doctors Nova Scotia recommends the minimum legal age for cannabis sales be set at 21. The government has set 19 as the legal age to buy weed.
The doctors’ group has also recommended the implementation of a “comprehensive” public education and awareness campaign aimed at promoting responsible cannabis use.
Above all, Doctors Nova Scotia said the regulatory approach from both the province and the federal government should be cautious and changes should take place over time and after comprehensive scientific research.
The government said on Monday that they thank Doctors Nova Scotia for its contribution to the discussion of cannabis sales.
“The legalization of cannabis is a complex and significant shift for our society. We’ve said all along that protecting the health and safety of Nova Scotians, especially children and youth, is our top priority,” said Andrew Preeper, a spokesperson for the province.
“During the current legislative session, we’ll put forward Nova Scotia’s framework, which we believe protects the health and safety of Nova Scotians.”
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