CAPHC calls for Evidence-Guided Policy in Pursuit of Legislation to Legalize Marijuana


On Thursday April 13th, the federal government tabled legislation to legalize the sale of marijuana to Canadians over the age of eighteen. While the federal government has appropriately identified protecting Canadians and reducing undue harm from the consumption of cannabis as top priorities, the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres remains concerned about the potential impact of this legislative change on the mental and physical development of children and youth.

According to a 2016 position statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society, cannabis use during adolescence can cause structural and functional changes to the developing brain. Use of marijuana in this age group has been linked to greater dependence and substance abuse as well as increased potential for mental illness and cognitive decline including poor school performance and reduced lifetime achievement. Hospitalizations of younger children due to the unintentional ingestion of marijuana are also not insignificant. (

“As the federal government moves to legalize the sale and consumption of marijuana, CAPHC members urge Minister Philpott to pursue evidence-guided policy, leveraging the expertise of the research (including paediatric) communities to mitigate potentially serious and long lasting damage to immature brains”, states CAPHC Chair, Dr. Peter Fitzgerald.

CAPHC members are also acutely concerned about the potential for addiction amongst this population, and evidence to date has not ruled out a relationship between cannabis use and depression and anxiety. Research conducted by Unicef in 2013 suggests that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in Canada, with Canadian youth reporting the highest use of marijuana use amongst 29 developed countries. Nearly a quarter of the population aged 15-24 reported past-year use. There are concerns that legalization will further increase marijuana’s use among this age group.

“There are many unanswered questions. Further research is necessary to ascertain the short and long term clinical impacts of marijuana on Canadian youth in the context of its legalization,” states Dr. Fitzgerald. CAPHC members look forward to contributing to this research and collaborating with federal and provincial governments to restrict the availability to and use of marijuana in youth.


About CAPHC: 
The Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres (CAPHC) is a non-profit organization recognized as a leader in advancing the improvement of healthcare for Canada’s children and youth. CAPHC’s mandate is to affect system-wide change in the delivery of healthcare services by focusing on innovative initiatives and programs that have broad national relevance. Today, CAPHC is proud to support inter-professional child and youth health care providers and families from more than 70 organizations in Canada. 

To learn more about CAPHC’s programs, partners, and services, visit or follow us on Twitter, @CAPHCTweets.

Emily Gruenwoldt
President & CEO, CAPHC