The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has asked the province of Ontario to fund a public education program targeted at reducing potential harms of recreational cannabis consumption. At a recent meeting with the province's finance committee, Carolyn Pullen, chief of programs and policy for the CNA, argued that nurses were best suited to develop such a campaign, as they have great influence on individuals' personal health choices.
Canada is still on track to legalize recreational marijuana use over the summer, and the government plans to allocate $36 million (CAD) for a five-year education program about the risks of cannabis use. The CNA, however, has asked the finance committee for $48 million (CAD) over the next five years to launch their own public education campaign. Pullen has said that her organization is hoping that all provinces, not just Ontario, will consider contributing to the fund.
The CNA also asked the province's government for an additional $600,000 (CAD) in order to educate nurses themselves about cannabis. Last year, the CNA surveyed nurses throughout the country and found that many reported knowledge gaps concerning the health risks of different modalities of cannabis consumption, as well as mental health and substance abuse risks.
"For [nurses] to understand and be able to explain those risks… to their clients and their patients is a really important opportunity to seize," Pullen said to CBC News. "But in order to do that, we have to develop the materials for the public and professionals, and that is going to require significantly more than what we've already seen governments commit."
The quest for education on the risks and benefits of cannabis in Canada bears a stark contrast with the U.S., where federal prohibition laws have prevented many healthcare practitioners from learning accurate, up-to-date information about cannabis in general. The Schedule I classification of marijuana makes it extremely difficult for medical facilities in the U.S. to conduct research on the drug, creating a serious impediment to researchers who want to fully determine the long-term health benefits and risks of cannabis.