No Major Impacts to Healthcare System Since Cannabis Legalization: Interior Health

(Credit: District of Sparwood)

Officials with the regional health authority say their focus since non-medical cannabis was legalized has shifted to public health education.

Aaron Miller, Interior Health's Corporate Director of Population Health, presented to the board this week to talk about their work to update 16 IH policies since legalization on October 17th.

"We've been looking at how we provide care within our residential care facilities and acute care hospitals, as well as ensuring information is being shared, and as well as, I think most importantly, is updating all of our smoke-free bylaws as well as policies for our Interior Health owned and operated sites."

They have also been working with local governments throughout their jurisdiction on the smoke-free policies to ensure public consumption is regulated the same as tobacco by prohibiting it in places where children are likely to congregate and near buildings.

In addition to putting more funding towards addictions and rehabilitation programs, Miller says Interior Health has been working hard to educate the public and their staff about the newly-legal substance.

"It's really important that we've been able to help our healthcare providers and our community health leaders understand the risks of non-medical cannabis use and how we can shift our thinking of cannabis as no longer being an illegal drug, but similar to alcohol or tobacco. Like any substance, it's about education and striving to minimize the harm associated with its use and respecting everyone's philosophy of choices."

For the creation of these new policies and programs, he adds that Interior Health and the provincial and federal governments have looked to Washington and Colorado, two American states that have already legalized non-medical marijuana.

"Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, within B.C. and the Interior region, we're following a very similar trend - we haven't seen increases in emergency department visits and no major impacts as a result of legalization."

Of course, Miller gives the caveat that legalization has not even been a thing for two months in Canada, so as time goes on, the health authority will continue to adapt their training and policies as necessary.

Audio: Aaron Miller, Corporate Director of Population Health, Interior Health

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