By: Jordan Benadiba, Account Supervisor, Health & Wellness Team
In the second part of our two-part series, GCI’s Health and Wellness Practice turns to the opioid crisis and the legalization of marijuana, two topics sure to dominate the healthcare landscape this year.
Tackling the Opioid Crisis
For many, the opioid crisis is largely seen as the greatest public health crisis facing Canadians today and has garnered a quick response from the federal government. In December, it introduced Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
Bill C-37 will further support the establishment of supervised consumption sites, a key component of maintaining a harm reduction approach. Two new supervised consumption sites have been approved recently in Montreal with another 10 requests for additional sites in Ontario, BC and Quebec under review. Bill C-37 will also enable greater action to address illegal supply, production and distribution of drugs.
In addition to Bill C-37, the federal government is calling for the passage of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which will provide an exemption for possession charges for those people who call 911 when witnessing an overdose. This year’s federal budget includes $65 million over five years in order to respond to the opioid crisis and implement the federal government’s Opioid Action Plan.
The federal government has also been very clear that in order to truly address the opioid issue, Canada will need to look at the root causes, which include issues like poverty, mental health, trauma and abuse. These larger issues go beyond the healthcare realm and speak to larger, more embedded issues facing Canadians.
Much discussion has already taken place on the Liberal government’s plan to legalize marijuana and it’s safe to say that much discussion will continue on the topic throughout 2017.
In order to aid the federal government in crafting legislation, a federal Task Force on
Cannabis Legalization and Regulation was created. In December, the Task Force released a series of recommendations on how to legalize marijuana, including its production, sale and regulation.
While the federal government has been clear that the sale of marijuana remains illegal, Canadians have witnessed the rapid spread of dispensaries and subsequent crackdowns and raids by police. Given the federal government’s timeline, Canadians can expect legislation to be tabled and debated in the House very shortly. In fact, recent news reports maintain that legislation will announced in April which will legalize marijuana by July 1, 2018. While speculative details on the legislation have been reported, there is no doubt that the body of the legislation and the roll out process will result in heated debate across the country.
Throughout the year, GCI’s Health & Wellness Practice will be monitoring and providing regular assessments of significant developments in Canada’s healthcare sector.