A week before recreational marijuana becomes legal in Canada, the University of Alberta hosted a symposium on Tuesday centered around the impact of the drug.
The Cannabis Research Symposium featured health experts who presented, debated and discussed the effects cannabis and endocannabinoids have on the brain and behaviours.
The discussion also steered towards the social impacts of legalization, which happens on Oct. 17.
Clinical professor Dr. Scot Purdon does research on the behavioural effects of cannabis. He said he’s “sitting on the fence” on the legalization of the drug.
“I would like to see higher quality studies being done, more firm, compelling evidence one way or the other,” Purdon said.
“I’m working on the neurophysiology effects — that is, memory effects and language effects and psychological effects on mood — and I really don’t think we have enough data to come out strong on one opinion or the other.”
Purdon said one of the anticipated negative effects is the expected increase in emergency room visits related to marijuana use.
“The reasons for the admissions predominantly are nausea or associated discomfort – gastrointestinal discomfort to cannabis use or anxiety related to something else, but that seems to be the most common one,” he said.
A fear of poisoning after using marijuana has been cited as another common reason for an emergency room visit, Purdon said.
The doctor said he does not anticipate a notable increase in Canadians using marijuana for “self-medication” after legalization.
“I believe that people that are treating themselves for those types of conditions, like anxiety or some claim antidepressant effects – they’re already using cannabis in that way, either on the black market or from dispensaries.”
The panel at Tuesday’s symposium included faculty from the University of Alberta’s psychiatry department and neuroscience and mental health institute, the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute and community health department, as well as a representative from Alberta Health Services.