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Inuit Forum on Cannabis and Mental Health


This report documents the discussions held at the Inuit Forum on Cannabis and Mental Health in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, on October 9-10, 2019. The purpose of the forum was to have an Inuit-led discussion on cannabis and mental health in order to exchange knowledge and identify research gaps and priorities. This event represented the start of developing an Inuit-specific cannabis and substance use research agenda. The forum was planned and organized by representatives from the Nunatsiavut Department of Health and Social Development, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). The event forum represented the first opportunity for Inuit across Inuit Nunangat to meet to discuss cannabis. While it included presentations, most of the time was spent working in small groups while engaging in wide-ranging discussions centred on cannabis, mental health, and research. Topics included cannabis use and access, risks, benefits, challenges, and best practices. Participants had different levels of knowledge about cannabis and were eager to discuss all aspects of this complex topic.

Research questions developed by participants included the following:

  • What are the perceptions of cannabis use among different demographics?
  • What are the risks associated with using cannabis?
  • What are the potential benefits of using cannabis?
  • What are the broader impacts of cannabis use and legalization in different communities?
  • What are the general patterns of consumption in different regions?
  • What are effective public education strategies?
  • Participants also had the opportunity to meet with regional colleagues to discuss what was happening in their regions and brainstorm about what they would like to do in the future. This process generated ideas and plans they could take back to their home communities and regions.

Several key themes emerged from the forum:ž

  • Communities require a lot more basic information on cannabis, including its link with mental health.ž
  • Cannabis-related programs or research must be grounded in the local culture and language and in such social determinants of health as housing. They must also take into account the community context — including trauma and lived experiences — and reflect regional differences.ž
  • There is considerable interest in exploring a harm reduction approach, including cannabis use as a substitute for other substances (e.g., alcohol). However, this possibility must be thoroughly studied so that all harms and benefits are known and the approach can be customized to the individual.ž
  • A comprehensive cannabis strategy is needed that is similar to the Tobacco Reduction
  • Strategy.Much of the information in this report can be used to inform such a strategy.ž Participants identified a need to have more opportunities to come together to discuss and share knowledge related to cannabis and mental health.

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