Feds announce $36.4M public education campaign on legalized pot
OTTAWA – As plans to legalize marijuana move forward, the federal government is spending $36.4 million over the next five years on a marijuana education and awareness campaign.
The campaign will aim to educate Canadians—youth in particular— about the health and safety risks of marijuana use, and drug-impaired driving, the government says.
Tuesday's announcement was made by Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor and the Liberals' point man on pot, Bill Blair, who is parliamentary secretary to both the health minister and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
"There is a lot of misinformation about cannabis," Petitpas Taylor told reporters in the House of Commons foyer on Tuesday. She said the plan is to spend the millions on multiple campaigns and target different audiences, including those on social media.
The federal government is planning to spend $22.5 million of this over the first two years, and $13.9 million in the three years following.
The information will target other "priority populations," including Indigenous people; pregnant and breastfeeding women; and people with mental illness.
Pending parliamentary approval, the government would also like to include information on the incoming new marijuana laws ahead of the planned legalization of marijuana Canada-wide in July 2018.
Blair said it’s about making sure young people have the information they need to make informed choices in a regulated environment, where the conversation will evolve beyond the legal consequences of using marijuana.
"When the substance is a prohibited substance, when it’s illegal, most of that public education focuses on the legal consequences of breaking the law. In a regulated environment it really enables parents, teachers, health professionals to begin to have conversations with young people [about] how they can make safer and healthier choices," said Blair.
Public Safety Canada is expected to take the lead on the drug-impaired driving awareness efforts, while Health Canada will continue already underway efforts to alert Canadians of various ages and demographics, to the health risks of marijuana.
This money is in addition to the $9.6 million of existing funding earmarked in the 2017 budget, to be spent over five years on a Health Canada legalized marijuana public education program and surveillance activities.
Tomorrow, the House of Commons is scheduled to begin debate at report stage on Bill C-45, the federal legislation to legalize marijuana. It has not been debated since it was studied and amended by the House Health Committee this fall.
The bill sets out the parameters around the production, possession, safety standards, distribution, and sale of marijuana. It also creates new Criminal Code offences for selling marijuana to minors.
Among the tweaks the committee made to the bill, was cutting out the height restriction on homegrown marijuana plants. Despite a wide range of other serious concerns about the legislation—from the impact on youth and the bill staying silent on edibles, to provinces and police forces’ preparedness—no other substantive amendments were passed.
In last week's fall fiscal update the government reported it was dedicating $525 million over five years to assist in the legalization, to Health Canada, Public Safety Canada, and the Canada Border Services Agency.
The government has also dedicated just over $247 million over five years to assist policing and border efforts around legalized marijuana.