To the editor of the “Taking Care With Cannabis” pamphlet from Vancouver Coastal Health,
Regarding your new pamphlet, “Taking Care With Cannabis”:
It’s better than anything else that has come out of an official source, but in hindsight, I have a concern. Since it is only about risks and does not admit any benefits this material may seem to be less than fully credible to the vast majority of users who have not experienced a downside to cannabis use, and it may also become a tool of prohibitionists and cannabiphobes to help foist stigma upon users where none should exist.
Luckily, there are simple fixes that address this concern in the form of the qualifiers I have included below in bold.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR AGE
Young brains are still developing during adolescence and early adulthood. Carefully weigh the potential benefits of cannabis use with the potential harms on the developing brain. Despite reports of cannabis helping with brain cell growth, the effects on the developing mind are still unknown. If you choose to use cannabis, consider delaying use until late adolescence or early adulthood, use in moderation, and look for other ways to address emotional and physical needs. Regular and heavy use of cannabis at an early age may impact brain development with lasting consequences.
MIND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Despite evidence that cannabis has been used for centuries as an effective medicine for stress and depression, cannabis use affects people differently, and may make existing mental health symptoms– such as depression and anxiety — worse or lead to temporary psychosis, including paranoia and hallucinations. It may also increase the risk of the onset of schizophrenia for those with pre-existing vulnerability. Such effects may be related to strain and dosage or an individual’s biochemistry. If you have a mental health issue, or a personal or family history of schizophrenia, it is important to consider the potential risks of using cannabis. Cannabis is not a good fit for everyone.
STAY SAFE IF IMPAIRED
Despite regular users reporting it to be a performance enhancer and focus aid, cannabis use may impair psychomotor coordination, reaction time and other cognitive abilities. This impairment may be pronounced in occasional and novice users or those using higher dosages or stronger strains than usual. Avoid driving or engaging in other potentially dangerous activities if impaired by cannabis as it could increase risk of injury or fatality. To be safe, wait at least 3 hours after inhaling or 6 hours after ingesting.