Cannabis deadline, public education, on health ministers' minds heading into meeting

Mental health, marijuana and money dominate discussions as health ministers meet in Winnipeg

The need for a national public awareness campaign and the encroaching July 2018 deadline for cannabis legalization will be on the minds of provincial and territorial health ministers when they meet in Edmonton on Friday with their federal counterpart, Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the deadline is the single biggest issue facing all health ministers. 

"Marijuana will be legalized, sellable over the web and delivered to houses ... will we be all ready? I hope so for everyone," Barette said Thursday.  

He said Quebec should be ready, but asked "What do you call ready?" 

Barrette said there are still no regulations about derivative cannabis products. He said it will be difficult to ensure a proper network for selling cannabis is in place by the legalization date. 

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, who is chairing the meeting, noted that justice ministers in most provinces have taken the lead on cannabis legalization but Petitpas Taylor holds that responsibility federally. 

Provinces are grappling with issues such as where cannabis should be sold, the minimum legal age for consumption and impaired driving enforcement.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins is looking to Petitpas Taylor for details on a national public awareness campaign, particularly for people under the age of 25.

"All of us are focused on, as health ministers, harm reduction, knowing that the brain continues to develop probably until about age 25," he said.

"Particularly for children and youth, to make sure they, or in the case of children, their parents as well, are well aware of the inherent risks to consuming cannabis."

The ministers also discussed mental health funding, the opioid crisis and a national pharmacare program.

They shared information on strategies to combat the opioid overdose crisis. They plan to talk to Petitpas Taylor about how the federal government can help the provinces and territories.