Calgary announcement sees feds pledge $24.5M to fund cannabis use research

WATCH: Cannabis crusaders are applauding a multi-million dollar investment into research. It’s a move they said Wednesday would never have happened without the end of prohibition. Jill Croteau has more.

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.

READ MORE: Why rigid federal rules make marijuana containers really hard to recycle

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.

READ MORE: Blair ‘very confident’ more pot shops, supply chains can convert grey market cannabis users

“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.

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“Our goal is to create a healthier and safer environment for all of our citizens.”

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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.

“It makes us a leader in the world because the world is looking to Canada, [which] is now a place where research can take place,” the former Toronto police chief said.

READ MORE: Children are eating cannabis edibles and it’s dangerous, says Montreal Children’s Hospital

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.

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“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.”

READ MORE: Aurora Cannabis preparing for legalization of cannabis edibles, vaping products

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.

READ MORE: Retailers struggle to keep popular cannabis extract CBD on shelves in Canada

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.

Minister Bill Blair meets with researchers at the University of Calgary on May 22, 2019. The Canadian government announced $24.5-million in funding for research on cannabis use and its effects.
Minister Bill Blair meets with researchers at the University of Calgary on May 22, 2019. The Canadian government announced $24.5-million in funding for research on cannabis use and its effects. Bruce Aalhus / Global News

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.

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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.