Health Canada doesn’t yet have a target set on reducing marijuana consumption among teens and young adults, but it says it will within the next few years.
Health Canada plans to set targets for reducing the rate of Canadians aged 15-24 who use cannabis “by Dec. 31, 2020,” according to departmental plans recently tabled in Parliament.
The report said the current baseline rate of use is 25.5 per cent for the year 2015 – which breaks down to 20.6 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 19, and 29.7 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 24.
Conservative Sen. Judith Seidman said not setting a target before legalizing cannabis sends the “wrong message” about consumption. She criticized that the government should have a target already set so it can measure whether it is successful in reducing consumption rates and so it’s more accountable to the public for its policy choices.
“The absence of comparable targets proves the government isn’t serious about limiting marijuana consumption,” she said.
But a spokesperson from Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor’s office said the Liberal government’s “strict marketing regulations” and public awareness campaigns will ensure legalizing doesn’t encourage consumption.
“We already know that regardless of use, 79 per cent of Canadians said that they would not be more likely to try or to increase their cannabis consumption once cannabis is legalized,” Thierry Belair said in an emailed statement.
He noted cannabis is still an illegal product and Statistics Canada only recently launched its National Cannabis Survey to collect consumption data.
When Sen. Seidman raised the issue of setting consumption targets at a Senate committee last month, Parliamentary secretary to the minister of heath Bill Blair said the Liberal government’s overall target is to “eliminate usage of cannabis among young people.”
“Our targets are to get kids right off of this because it’s not healthy for them to use it.”
The Liberal government plans to pass cannabis legalization legislation before Parliament breaks for summer, making it legal for Canadians over the age of 18 to consume pot recreationally.
The Liberals have said the legalization bill is necessary to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and profits away from organized crime, but the Conservatives have argued the government is rushing its legislation through and isn’t ready.
A third reading vote in the Senate on Bill C-45, which is currently still at committee stage, is set for on or before June 7.