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Support effort to learn more about impact of cannabis, researchers urge Ottawa

Last Updated Jun 19, 2017 at 6:00 pm EDT

A young man smokes a marijuana joint during a rally in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 20, 2011. A coalition of academics is calling on the federal government to make researching the effects of pot a priority as Ottawa works to legalize and regulate marijuana by next July. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

OTTAWA – The federal government needs to make research into the effects of pot a priority as Ottawa works to legalize and regulate marijuana by next July, a coalition of academics said Monday.

In an open letter, more than 50 researchers from across the country said policy-makers should support efforts to learn more about how marijuana affects its users, adding cannabis research has been limited by the long-standing criminalization of the drug.

“As a result, substantial knowledge gaps remain related to the potential consequences of legalized cannabis use,” the letter said.

Those who signed the letter include Dr. Mark Ware, an assistant professor at McGill University who served as vice-chair on a federally appointed task force on marijuana.

Canada is uniquely positioned to develop and deliver the research that should accompany legalized cannabis, Ware said.

“There is tremendous expertise and interest across the country that is poised to engage and inform this important policy implementation,” Ware said in a statement.

More than 100 million people in Canada and the United States will have legal access to cannabis, added Dr. M-J Milloy, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of medicine.

“As scientists, we need to closely monitor the creation of the promised public health framework for legal cannabis and evaluate how it mitigates the harms and maximizes the possible benefits of cannabis.”

In April, the Liberal government tabled legislation proposing to legalize and regulate the recreational use of cannabis for adults over the age of 18.

Once passed, it would make Canada the first G7 country where the use of marijuana is legal.

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