Health Canada is advising Canadians on ways to reduce health risks associated with using cannabis, “particularly in relation to new cannabis products becoming legally available across the country.”
The Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health released the statement through Health Canada, specifically regarding cannabis extracts, edibles, and topical products, which were legalized on Oct. 17, 2019.
“As with other regulated substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, cannabis is not harmless and carries risks,” reads the release. “While there is some evidence of potential therapeutic uses for cannabis, evidence continues to emerge on the longer-term health effects of cannabis, highlighting the importance of ongoing research. The only way to completely avoid the risks associated with cannabis use is to not use it.”
Health Canada says that people who use cannabis should be familiar with the different risks associated with various ways of consuming cannabis extracts and edibles.
How people consume cannabis (either orally or by inhalation), how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) people consume and how quickly people consume a product can “influence whether or not you experience adverse effects,” says the federal institution.
Given the recent and ongoing concerns about vaping-associated lung illness, “and the limited overall understanding of the short- and long-term risks of vaping,” Health Canada says the safest approach for people who use cannabis is to avoid smoking or vaping extracts.
Most recently, Alberta had its first confirmed case of vaping-associated lung illness.
Health Canada says those who choose to continue vaping cannabis extracts should consider the following “to help reduce risks to their health”:
- Use vaping products that have been obtained from legal, regulated resources only. Illegal or unregulated sources are not subject to any control or oversight and may pose additional risks to health and safety.
- Limit the amount and frequency of consumption. Initial effects can be felt within seconds to minutes, “but full effects can take up to 30 minutes to be felt.”
- Always read the label to understand the strength of the product, as the concentration of THC can be found on the labels of legal and regulated sources.
- Avoid deep inhalation and breath-holding.
- Avoid consuming other substances, such as alcohol when using cannabis.
Health Canada is also reminding people not to drive or operate heavy equipment after using cannabis as it can impair coordination and concentration. Effects from edible cannabis can last 4 – 12 hours, with some lasting up to 24 hours.
The federal institution is also reminding people that when using any type of cannabis product, it is important to remember that, like other substances, “there is the possibility of developing cannabis dependence or addiction, and that frequent use can cause harm to your physical and mental health.”
“In fact, close to 10% of adults who have ever used cannabis will develop cannabis use disorder,” the statement reads. “The younger you are when you start using cannabis, and the more often and longer you use it, the more likely that it will have an adverse impact on your health.”
This is a follow-up to Health Canada’s October 2018 statement on cannabis and health, according to Health Canada.