Cannabis Public Education Activities

Backgrounder

October 17, 2018

Cannabis legalization and regulation

Through the Cannabis Act and its strict regulations, the Government of Canada will better protect the health and safety of Canadians, keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, and keep profits from criminals and organized crime.

Public health approach

The Government of Canada is taking a public health approach to the legalization and regulation of cannabis. Its aim is to:

  • raise awareness of the health and safety facts of cannabis use;
  • prevent problematic cannabis use;
  • protect youth by restricting access to cannabis;
  • prevent drug-impaired driving;
  • deter travellers from taking cannabis across international borders,
  • strictly regulate the cannabis supply chain;
  • monitor cannabis use patterns; and
  • ensure industry compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements.

Public education

Public education efforts are fundamental to achieving the Government’s objective of protecting public health and safety, especially for youth. By disseminating clear, consistent and evidence-based information on the health and safety facts about cannabis, the Government of Canada is enabling Canadians to make informed choices and to better understand the risks of cannabis use.

The total planned investment in cannabis public education, awareness and surveillance is more than $100 million over six years. Through Budget 2018, the Government committed to invest $62.5 million over five years to support the involvement of community-based organizations and Indigenous organizations that are educating their communities on the risks associated with cannabis use. This funding builds on the previously announced investment of $46 million over five years to support public education, awareness and surveillance activities. 

Early federal efforts related to public education focused on building the evidence base to inform cannabis public education and awareness initiatives. These early efforts included:

  • conducting public opinion research to understand Canadians’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to cannabis and drug-impaired driving;
  • undertaking market research to inform approaches for campaigns to reach youth, young adults and parents;
  • understanding lessons learned from other jurisdictions such as Colorado and Washington State to glean insight on priority audiences, messaging and timing for public education campaigns; and
  • engaging stakeholders and partners, including through national symposiums in November 2017 and October 2018 with more than 100 partners that are active in delivering public education and awareness activities. 

Strategic partnerships

Partnerships are essential to the Government’s public education efforts to help communicate, complement and extend the reach of its health and safety messages about cannabis.

To date, the Government of Canada has partnered with a number of organizations, including:

  • Drug Free Kids Canada
  • Canadian Automobile Association
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • Young Drivers of Canada
  • Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Canadian Public Health Association
  • Canadian Hockey League
  • Canadian Nurses Association
  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
  • Schizophrenia Society of Canada
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • University of Western Ontario
  • Health Nexus
  • Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction
  • Operation Springboard
  • John Howard Society of New Brunswick
  • Ontario Physical and Health Education Association
  • St. Stephen’s Community House
  • Tri-County Women’s Centre Society

Provincial, territorial and Indigenous engagement

Health Canada and Public Safety Canada have established working groups with the provinces and territories that have been meeting regularly since May 2017 to discuss and coordinate public education and awareness activities.

The federal government is also engaging with Indigenous organizations and communities and working with them to develop community-based and culturally relevant education and information materials about the health and safety facts of cannabis use. Actions currently under way include:

  • translation of existing public education resources into Indigenous languages and dialects, such as Inuktitut;
  • funding for Thunderbird Partnership Foundation to lead regional dialogue sessions and town halls on cannabis with Indigenous communities across Canada; and
  • working with the Métis National Council to increase Métis engagement and to support the development of targeted public education activities.

Federal departments will continue to work with Indigenous leaders to help ensure that a culturally appropriate approach to public education meets the needs of Indigenous communities.

Public education projects on the horizon

As Canada implements the new legislative and regulatory framework for cannabis, public education campaigns will be expanded to help Canadians understand the new legal framework and share responsible use information for legal-aged adults. The campaigns will continue to reinforce messages on the health and safety facts about cannabis, border and travel information and drug-impaired driving.

Health Canada also continues to accept proposals for cannabis-related projects through its Substance Use and Addictions Program. The Department is currently soliciting additional proposals from national, community-based and Indigenous organizations.


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