A snapshot of the cannabis information postcard that is being sent out to Canadians ahead of October 17, 2018. (Submitted photo)

Cannabis information cards being sent to your home

If it hasn’t already, a postcard with information on Canada’s Cannabis Act should arrive in your mailbox by the middle of next week.

Officials with the federal government said they’ve already sent out the information postcards to 15 million households across the country. Over five years, the federal government will spend more than $46 million on public education and awareness about marijuana. The plan also includes signage and radio and television advertising. A social media campaign began in March 2017, mostly targeting parents and youth.

Starting October 17, the same day recreational cannabis is legalized in Canada, the government will roll out a bigger project with television, print, and digital ads. The campaign is meant to educate young adults about the new federal laws, implications for border travel, workplace and driving impairment, and health effects. The postcard arriving in Canadian mailboxes is the same across Canada, despite differences in provincial legislation. It is delivered in English and French, but a website is available with the content translated into Indigenous languages, as well as Chinese, Arabic and other languages spoken in Canada.

It starts with “Here’s What You Need To Know” and briefly mentions legal age minimums, penalties for misuse, health effects, storage recommendations, and border rules.

Health Canada has left it up to each province for how to release education to the public.

“We have our overarching public education nationally, but provinces are doing their own,” said Andre Gagnon with Health Canada.

On a provincial level, Ontario has released its own breakdown on cannabis laws, though many decisions have yet to be made.

Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, said locally they can’t change much from the provincial regulations.

“There are provincial laws that have been enacted with regard to the anticipation of [cannabis], about driving and public consumption and that sort of thing,” said Colby. “Locally we have our own set of smoke-free bylaws that were designed around tobacco and my approach is to endorse treating all types of smoke the same.”

Most smoke-free bylaws in Southwestern Ontario limit smoking in enclosed public areas or outdoors on municipal property including parks, beaches and walkways.

“My view has always been that smoke is smoke,” said Colby.

Dan Flaherty, communications manager for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, agreed there’s little that can be done locally when it comes to regulations.

“Our health unit has been pretty clear,” said Flaherty. “We want the same regulations around tobacco to be around cannabis.”

Flaherty said they’re still waiting for the province of Ontario to come out with specific guidelines for how to treat cannabis.

“Consultations on several aspects of the Smoke-Free Ontario Act just closed,” said Flaherty. “So we don’t know where the province is going to land on that.”

While Chatham-Kent and Middlesex-London have decided not to release any local education campaigns this month, the Windsor-Essex health unit did launch its own campaign.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) rolled out Cannabis: Your Questions, Answered on October 4, 2018, in an effort to answer some frequently asked questions that residents have.

“It really aims to debunk myths and to provide reliable, credible information about the effects that cannabis use can have on health and across their life-span,” said Eric Nadalin with the WECHU’s Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention department. “Outside of that, we’ve been developing key messages internally, educating our staff about how to interact with our clients about cannabis use and collaborating across our departments… to determine how best to get quality information out.”

You can read more about the WECHU’s cannabis information campaign by clicking here.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act 2017 was set to be updated in June 2018 but was paused, leaving regulations surrounding cannabis and e-cigarettes up in the air. An amendment last December does lay out some regulations, especially those concerning production and sales of cannabis. It created The Ontario Cannabis Store, which is solely online and the only legal option for purchasing in Ontario.

Cannabis becomes legal across Canada on October 17, 2018.

-With files from Matt Weverink