After becoming one of the first countries to fully legalize the consumption and sale of recreational marijuana, Canada is continuing its cannabis trailblazing with the announcement of research funding to look into the many uses of cannabis and related products.
On Wednesday, Bill Blair — the federal minister of border security and organized crime reduction — announced $24.5 million in funding for cannabis use research from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for 26 projects across the country.
Three of those research projects will be conducted at the University of Calgary, where Blair made the announcement.
He said the work done by researchers will help Canadians and medical professionals make better choices around the now-legalized drug.
“We need the work of these researchers,” Blair said. “We need evidence-based information in policy so that those discussions can be informed not by myth, and not by people who are just trying to make a buck off the most vulnerable people in our society, but by people who care about our kids and care about our communities.
“Our goal is to create a healthier and safer environment for all of our citizens.”
LISTEN: Minister Bill Blair joins Calgary Today to explain what type of research is expected to be done with funding announced Wednesday
Canada joins countries like Uruguay, the Netherlands, Spain and Israel in being at the forefront of cannabis research.
Blair said his consultations with regulators in jurisdictions like Colorado and Washington state have raised the importance of measured regulation of cannabis-based edibles, extracts and topicals — due to become legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
“Based on that advice, and the advice of many sound professionals, we have taken what I think is a very cautious and careful approach to the regulation of those substances,” Blair said.
“We have now gazetted the new regulations for edibles, extracts and topicals. A date of implementation will be established for those new regulations to come into effect. In any event, it has to take place under Canadian law by Oct. 17 of 2019.”
Blair also addressed the apparent challenges retailers have faced in low supply from provincial distribution. He said the growing capacity of the existing 177 licensed producers — with still more producers to become licensed — “easily exceeds the overall need” for Canada’s cannabis market.
He also said that changing the market to a regulated marketplace from a black market has caused some of the supply chain challenges.
“[The provinces], for example, did not have comprehensive, complete knowledge — organized crime never shared their sales data with us. And so they’re learning about what it is people wish to consume and what they wish to buy.”
A trio of other funding packages were also announced Wednesday by Blair.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction will be contributing $4.5 million to look at how Canada’s new cannabis laws impact public health.
Key research gaps will be addressed by $2.85 million from the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
And $390,000 in funding will be going to two public awareness projects in Alberta.