“Healthcare professionals’ work overload and distress are heightening our concerns regarding our capacity to deal with the repercussions of the legalization of cannabis. Our members are already running out of steam. They work too many consecutive hours, there aren’t enough full-time positions, there’s a shortage of staff. If they don’t get additional resources, there will be dire consequences for the staff, their patients and their loved ones.” This is how Nancy Bédard, President of the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec – FIQ, alongside Vice-President Shirley Dorismond, presented the FIQ’s brief at the parliamentary committee at the National Assembly today.
“The FIQ would like to share its stance on the issues around the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Healthcare professionals recognize why it’s important to take preventive measures with regard to health problems but many people are still sceptical about the rushed, ad-hoc deadline imposed by the federal government,” said Shirley Dorismond.
The law is set to come into force six months from now and there is still a lot to do to properly protect youth and equip those in the field to deal with the coming challenges. With this in mind, the FIQ would like the Quebec government to take steps to:
- immediately invest in public health care to support teams in the field, hospitals, CLSCs, schools and detox centres;
- equip workers with the proper tools by developing training programs that build on the healthcare professionals’ areas of expertise;
- restrict the use of all cannabis products. The framework legislation needs to get the message out that all types of cannabis can be harmful to one’s health.
“Despite the ad-hoc nature of the approach to legalizing cannabis, our brief contains six recommendations that could improve Bill 157. We hope that the government will take them into serious consideration for the sake of the Quebec population, especially our youth,” concluded Nancy Bédard.
- In support of prevention efforts and to encourage healthy living, the FIQ recommends:
- Immediately investing 25 million dollars in the public health system to start large-scale activities to prepare the public for the effects of legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes.
- To support teams in the field, the FIQ recommends that the government:
- Prioritize funding for teams directly affected by the legalization of cannabis, who are currently providing psychosocial and health services, curative treatments and public health activities;
- Double the minimum amount in the Cannabis Prevention and Research Fund if tax revenue on cannabis products isn’t enough, increasing it from 25 to 50 million dollars.
- To ensure continued investments, the FIQ recommends that the government:
- Prohibit using the Cannabis Prevention and Research Fund’s or Cannabis Sales Revenue Fund’s surpluses for purposes other than those originally intended;
- Extend from 5 to 10 the number of years that the Minister of Finance will cover the difference between tax revenue on cannabis products and increase the minimum threshold in the Fund to 50 million dollars;
- Annually produce and submit financial forecasts, financial statements and annual management reports for the Cannabis Prevention and Research Fund and the Cannabis Sales Revenue Fund so that the public can verify whether or not the money in the funds is being used as intended.
- To support the development of adapted training programs, the FIQ recommends that the government:
- Clearly define “psychoactive substances” by specifying which products the legislator is referring to;
- Entrust the public health system with developing a training program on the sale of cannabis for future SQC employees who will handle both the theoretical and practical implications associated with the use of psychoactive substances;
- Prioritize the financing and provision of tools tailored to staff in the health and social services sector, education system, public safety and Quebec businesses within the activities funded by the Cannabis Sales Revenue Fund.
- To enhance the Comité de vigilance’s (cannabis oversight committee) operations, the FIQ recommends:
- Reserving a seat on the Comité de vigilance for a healthcare professional;
- Presenting its annual activity report to the Committee on Health and Social Services as opposed to just submitting it to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
- To restrict the use of all cannabis products in some settings, the FIQ recommends:
- Taking into account all the ways one can consume cannabis (smoking, vaporizing, eating, topical applications, etc.).