Canadian Underwriter

Will pot’s health effects lead to the industry’s next tobacco liability exposure?

October 3, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Marijuana could cause mental illness among youth and government needs to find ways of preventing teens from using it, an Ontario politician said Tuesday.

“There are many young people who had their lives turned upside down, and families turned upside down, as a result of the use of pot,” Gilles Bisson, opposition house leader and New Democratic Party MPP for Timmins, told the legislature during debate on Bill 36.

The concerns politicians are expressing today about the health effects of marijuana use will no doubt remind insurers about the analogous liability risks associated with tobacco use. The long-term health effects of tobacco have created significant exposures for tobacco companies and their insurers, with class action lawsuits costing the tobacco industry billions. For example, the Ontario government is seeking $50 billion in damages in a lawsuit against cigarette makers it launched in 2009.

Bill 36 in Ontario proposes several measures including prohibiting cannabis use in vehicles and boats. It would also prohibit people from consuming cannabis in an “enclosed workplace,” which includes a building, construction site trailer, loading dock or delivery truck, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said.

Bisson told the legislature Tuesday that his sister, who died when she was in her early 60s, started using marijuana in her late teens and also developed schizophrenia around the same time.

“She swore until the day she died that her schizophrenia was actually triggered by the pot,” Bisson said of his late sister. He is hoping that Bill 36 will “deal with keeping, as much as we can, pot away from young people triggering diseases such as schizophrenia.”

A federal bill easing the criminal code restrictions on recreational cannabis possession and cultivation takes effect Oct. 17. At that point, the only legal way of buying recreational cannabis in Ontario will be online through Cannabis Retail Corp., Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney said Monday at Queen’s Park.

“That will remain until Apr. 1, when we will see the opening of private retail stores throughout the province,” Mulroney said.

Bars can be sued by accident victims if an intoxicated person is over-served.

Whether a retailer selling cannabis or alcohol could be sued is “a question of foreseeability,” Ari Krajden, partner with co-chair of the coverage practice group at law firm Zarek Taylor Grossman Hanrahan LLP, told Canadian Underwriter earlier. Retailers’ workers will probably have to complete training similar to Smart Serve, which is a prerequisite to sell alcohol in Ontario.

Initially, only dried cannabis – rather than edibles – will be legal Canada-wide.

In Ontario, restrictions on where people can smoke cannabis will be the same as existing restrictions under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. This includes common areas of workplaces, including washrooms, lobbies and parking garages, Fedeli said.

Bisson is calling for more effort on preventing young people from taking up cannabis.

“We really need to take a look at what can we do, not just by way of restrictions, but by way of programs that help young people understand that utilizing pot could lead to quite traumatic experiences in their lives, as it did with my sister. That’s one of the things that I think this legislature has to look into.”

Debate on second reading continued Tuesday. Once Bill 36 passes second reading it will be the subject of committee hearings and could be amended before it is passed into law.

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2 Comments » for Will pot’s health effects lead to the industry’s next tobacco liability exposure?
  1. Keith Fagin says:

    University of British Columbia professor and researcher for the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, M-J Milloy says the link between cannabis and brain development is still merely by association.
    There a great number of scientists worldwide working on this issue, but there’s been no smoking gun, Milloy said.
    Zach Walsh, another UBC researcher specializing in cannabis, concurs.The evidence is weaker than the rhetoric;
    According to Walsh, there appears to be a link between schizophrenia and other psychosis and marijuana use, but this could just be an association rather than causal.
    He notes that there’s been a dramatic increase in cannabis use in recent years, especially in Canada, but schizophrenia levels have stayed stagnant.

    Published February 9, 2018, “Why cannabis shouldn’t be considered a gateway drug”
    Calgary professor debunks marijuana myths” Dave Dormer – CBC News U of C associate professor Matthew Hill says some common beliefs around the drug aren’t rooted in fact Myth: Cannabis alters brain structure. A: That one I would say, right now from the current studies, that would be false.

    Published November 21, 2017, “Five marijuana myths debunked: A public health expert clears the air on misinformation”
    Kevin Maimann – Metro
    The University of Alberta, O’Brien Institute for Public Health, Dr. Elaine Hyshka; Assistant Professor, School of Public Health. Dr. Elaine Hyshka, “There are also people who claim that cannabis is going to basically damage your brain when you use it, especially if you’re young, and that it’s going to contribute to the intellectual downfall of a generation. And that’s also not true,” she said.

    Published November 14, 2017, “Debunking myths about cannabis legalization”
    The University of Alberta, O’Brien Institute for Public Health

    December 16, 2015, “Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study (COMPASS)”
    Dr. Mark Ware – McGill University

    Our data show that daily cannabis users had no greater risk than non-users (control group) to experience serious adverse events,’’ explains Dr. Aline Boulanger, director of the pain clinic at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. ‘’We found no evidence of harmful effects on cognitive function, or blood tests among cannabis consumers and we observed a significant improvement in their levels of pain, symptom distress, mood and quality of life compared to controls.

    December 2, 2013, “A Controlled Family Study of Cannabis Users with and without Psychosis”
    Harvard University study
    Evidenced that teen cannabis consumption is not lead to the development of schizophrenia later in life. The study compared families with a history of schizophrenia to those without. The study also examined non-psychotic cannabis consumers and non-consuming participant controls. The results of the current study suggest that having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself.

  2. Egzoset says:

    Practically everytime youth brains are served as the ultimate objection i notice the matter of balanced THC/CBD ratio has never been addressed, as if decades of THC-centric selection shouldn’t be a concern when in fact THC and CBD are reciprocal moderators of each other. in other words prohibition created a sickening market which ends up combined with an even worse comsumption method: self-poisoning toxic SMOKING. Now go wonder what happens when spraying cannabis plants with a banned pesticide as myclobutanil – or a soup of pesticides each at a non-detectable level individually.

    THC concentration alone is a decoy in support of reduced concentrations eventually resulting with over-exposure to unwanted by-products while trichomes actually filter its noble substances on a molecular basis; e.g. inferior dry flowers with less THC and ZERO CBD cause the consumer to compensate by using more, not to mention that mecanization leads to “Tumbled Weed” which has got a significant amount of those noble trichomes removed to double value and more…

    In other words “save the children” should include strategies as improved (less-excentric) THC/CBD ratios combined to vaporisation instead of smoking, in absence of pesticides and tumbling machines please!

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