With legalization a year away, experts offer tips on minimizing pot harm – Politics

There’s only one way to completely avoid harm when using pot, according to Dr. Benedikt Fischer: Don’t use it at all.

But with the federal government aiming to legalize marijuana by July 2018, clearly not everyone in Canada is expected to choose abstinence.

In fact, statistics suggest upwards of three million Canadians are already using the drug. So Fischer and several colleagues have reviewed the scientific evidence and put together a new set of guidelines aimed at minimizing the risks of pot use.

The guidelines, being published in the June 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, were formally announced at a news conference in Ottawa today.

‘Always will come with some risks’

“Let me be very clear: these are not guidelines for risk-free cannabis use. That doesn’t exist. It always will come with some risks,” said Fischer, a senior scientist with Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto.

But those risks can be minimized, just like with drinking or sexual activity, Fischer said.

Dr. Benedikt Fischer of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health speaks to reporters after appearing before a Liberal Senate caucus meeting and panel discussion on marijuana on Parliament Hill last year. Fischer and his colleagues have released harm-reduction guidelines for people who decide to use pot. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“There’s a lot of room for modification on the part of the users — how they use, when they use, what they use— that will influence their risk for acute and chronic health outcomes.”

The guidelines have been endorsed by several major medical groups, including the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health.

If you’re not going to avoid pot altogether, Fischer said, a few of his 10 tips still stand out as being especially significant. 

One is to wait until you’re older to start using marijuana,…

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