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Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


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Taking action on drug shortages during Covid-19 - open letter

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14261
Date
2020-08-13
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-08-13
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Dear Prime Minister, We are writing to you today to ask you to bring attention and resources to Canada’s drug supply challenges. These shortages have existed for the past decade but have been greatly exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As frontline pharmacists and physicians, we have seen and heard of serious shortages of essential, critical medications. These drugs are often used simultaneously in ORs, ERs and palliative care wards, as well as ICUs. And while our ICUs are thankfully seeing fewer COVID-19 patients, the pandemic has been placing a heavy burden on their drug supply, where patients often require weeks’ worth of treatment on ventilators. The shortages of these drugs imperil the lives of patients seeking care all over the country. Currently, the vast majority (24/32) of the drugs on Health Canada’s own Tier 3 list, which represents drugs for which there are no suitable alternatives, are essential for treating COVID-19. With the likely upcoming second wave in Canada, the potential for further exacerbation of these shortages is inevitable unless we implement rigorous preparedness measures. At first glance, the federal government may conclude that this is a provincial and territorial area of jurisdiction. We can assure you, that there is a considerable role for the federal government to play on this issue of national concern if you so choose to take action. We believe you should. Many of these critical care drugs should be part of the National Strategic Emergency Stockpile. However, it is clear that Canada simply did not invest enough into its stockpiles to meet the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for the stockpiling strategy to be effective, it is vital that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments work closely with hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospices and primary care facilities nationwide to establish a 2 comprehensive list of critical medicines and develop a plan to procure medicines in a coordinated manner to prevent unintended competition for resources. The 2019 budget had earmarked funds for a new Canada Drug Agency which would have oversight over a national formulary. This proposed agency could similarly identify essential medicines to aid in an efficient stockpiling response, whether through stimulating domestic production or through importation and coordination of purchasing strategies to ensure that jurisdictions that have a greater need for medications gain access to them. We know that COVID-19’s impact on the health system across provinces and territories and within each and every jurisdiction was not equal or consistent. We appreciate the active efforts of Health Canada to resolve current or projected shortages of critical drugs through its Tier Assignment Committees. Furthermore, Ontario has a Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre and has created a Critical Care Drug Shortage Task Team. Certainly, the short-term deficit will need to be resolved through this mechanism and importing from all available suppliers. However, to support the system at large, provincial and territorial governments will need national support, resources and (where welcomed by provinces) a certain level of national coordination. Regardless of well-established Federal-Provincial-Territorial dynamics, without concrete preventative action, Canada will perpetually face drug shortages. This is why we recommend that your government commit to working on a long-term solution involving a three-pronged strategy: 1. Stockpiling of a Critical Medications List which the government commits to ensuring are always in stock for long enough to meet the needs in an emergency (likely through the Canada Drug Agency). a. A Critical Medications List would allow the parties involved in addressing the drug shortages to have a clear picture of what drugs to monitor closely, and provides a more comprehensive approach to the problem. 2. A publicly owned generic, critical drugs manufacturer, or at the bare minimum, public support for spare capacity by Canadian-based and controlled drug manufacturers to be used for critical drugs. a. This manufacturer or manufacturers would specialize in manufacturing the critical drugs on the Critical Medications List, and would be primarily involved in satisfying significant portions of our national demands. 3. Greater transparency and communications to and from governments and the health sector around the essential drug supply. This would include efforts to 3 better track the supply of drugs in hospitals across the country and push notifications on shortages through the appropriate channels to frontline workers. We encourage your government to give this urgent issue attention and efforts now, so that Canadians can have the confidence that their healthcare system will be there when they most need it.
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CMA Pre-budget Submission

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14259
Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
RECOMMENDATION 1 That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care. RECOMMENDATION 2 That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians. RECOMMENDATION 3 That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit. RECOMMENDATION 4 That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs. RECOMMENDATIONS 3 Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now. We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system. While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens. The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients. Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing. The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system. The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians. INTRODUCTION 4 Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic. At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them. Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage. The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission. RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund 5 It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care. During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual. The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access. A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet. The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service. Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy. We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments. Pan-Canadian broadband expansion It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement. RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system 6 Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long. The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors. A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors. The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade. Seniors care benefit Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients. RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors 7 The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short. The CMA recommends the following measures: 1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program. 2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions. 3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member. RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers 8 Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic. Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system. CONCLUSION
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Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: Federal measures to recognize the significant contributions of Canada’s front-line health care workers

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14211
Date
2020-05-28
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-05-28
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
During these unprecedented times, Canada’s physicians, along with all front-line health care workers (FLHCWs), have not only put themselves at risk but have made enormous personal sacrifices while fulfilling a critical role in life-threatening circumstances. The CMA recognizes and strongly supports the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians. However, given the unique circumstances that Canada’s FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all. To gain a better understanding of this issue, the CMA commissioned MNP LLP (MNP) to conduct a thorough economic impact study. They assessed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices in Canada and identified policy options to mitigate these effects. This brief summarizes the findings, provides an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices across the country and highlights targeted federal measures that can significantly mitigate the evident challenges physicians are experiencing. It is important to note that the recommended measured were developed through the lens of recognizing the important contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs. UNDERSTANDING HOW THE PANDEMIC IS IMPACTING PHYSICIAN PRACTICES Canada’s physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to the health of Canadians, our nation’s health infrastructure and our knowledge economy. In light of the design of Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Like most small businesses in Canada, physician practices have been negatively impacted by the necessary measures governments have established to contain this pandemic. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the provinces postponed non-emergent procedures and surgeries, indefinitely. According to data from the 2019 Physician Workforce Survey conducted by the CMA, approximately 75% of physicians reported practising in settings that would be expected to experience a reduction in patient volumes as a result of COVID-19 measures. This suggests “the vast majority of physicians in Canada anticipate declines in earnings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.” Physician practices include a variety of structures, which relate to the practice setting or type. In their economic impact study, MNP estimates that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario. These two scenarios are in comparison to a baseline scenario, prior to the pandemic. The low-impact scenario is based on the reduction of physician services reported during the 2003 experience with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) while the high-impact scenario estimates more significant impacts, being approximately double those observed during SARS. Unlike salaried public sector professionals, such as teachers, nurses or public servants, most physicians operate as small business owners who are solely responsible for the management of their practices. They employ staff, rent office space and have numerous other overhead costs related to running a small business, which they are still responsible for regardless of decreased earnings. According to data published by Statistics Canada in 2019 there were 120,241 people employed in physician offices in Canada and an additional 28,054 employed in medical laboratories. Additionally, physicians manage significant overhead expenses that are unique to medical practice such as practice insurance, licence fees and continuing medical education. It’s important to understand that even hospital-based physicians may be responsible for significant overhead expenses, unlike other hospital staff. Like any small business owner grappling with drastic declines in revenue, physicians may be forced to reduce their staffing levels or even close their practices entirely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ADDRESSING THE GAPS: ENSURING THAT FEDERAL ECONOMIC PROGRAMS CAPTURE PHYSICIAN PRACTICES To reiterate, the CMA supports the federal government’s decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic, including delivering critical economic relief programs. However, more detailed analysis is revealing that segments of physician practices are not eligible for these critical economic programs, because of technicalities. At this time, the CMA has identified three key segments of physician practice models who may not currently be eligible for the economic relief programs because of technicalities. These are: 1. hospital-based specialists 2. physician practices that operate as a small business but may not meet technical criteria 3. physicians delivering locum medical care These technical factors reflect the complexity of the health system infrastructure in Canada. Although hospital-based specialists may receive some form of salary, they may still be structured as a small business and be responsible for paying overhead fees to the hospital. Many physicians may operate as a small business and remit a statement of self-employment, and they may not have a business number or a business bank account. As is common amongst other self-employed professionals, many physicians operate practices within cost-sharing structures. The CMA is deeply concerned that these structures are presently being excluded for the federal government’s critical economic relief programs. As a result, this exclusion is affecting the many employees of practices structured as cost-sharing arrangements. Finally, physicians providing care in other communities, known as locum practice, would also be responsible for overhead expenses. It is the CMA’s understanding that the federal government is seeking to be inclusive in delivering economic relief programs to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, such as closures or unemployment. For physician practices, eligibility for federal economic relief programs would extend the reach of these mitigation measures to maintaining Canada’s critical health resources and services, as physician practices are responsible for a significant portion of health system infrastructure. As such, the CMA respectfully recommends that the federal government ensure that these critical economic programs be made available to all segments of physician practices. To this end, the CMA recommends that the federal government expand eligibility for the federal economic relief program to: 1. Include hospital-based specialists paying fees for overhead expenses to the hospitals (e.g., staff, equipment, space); 2. capture physician-owned medical practices using a “personal” banking account as well as those in cost-sharing structures to access programs; and, 3. include physicians who provide locum medical care. NEW FEDERAL TAX MEASURES TO SUPPORT AND RECOGNIZE FRONT-LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS It is also important to note that the impact of COVID-19 on FLHCWs goes well beyond the financial impacts. All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their work during these difficult times. They put their health and the health of their families at risk. They make enormous sacrifices, sometimes separating themselves from their families to protect them. These risks and sacrifices can strain an individual’s mental health, especially when coupled with anxiety over the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). A survey conducted by the CMA at the end of April showed that almost 75% of physicians who responded to the survey indicated feeling very or somewhat anxious about the lack of PPE. FLHCWs deserve to be recognized for their unique role during this pandemic. Given the enormous sacrifices and risks that FLHCWs are making every day, the federal government should enact measures to recognize their significant contributions during these unprecedented times. The CMA recommends that the federal government implement the following new measures for all FLHCWs: 1. An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions. 2. A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of an FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. The CMA is recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and their family member(s). 3. A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. The CMA recommends all FLHCWs earning income while working at a health care facility or in a capacity related thereto (e.g., paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit. 4. Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction. The CMA recommends the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction. It is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19. More details on these recommendations are provided in Appendix A to this brief. INCREASING FEDERAL HEALTH FUNDING TO SUPPORT SYSTEM CAPACITY It is due to the action of the federal and provincial/territorial governments, together with Canadians, in adhering to public health guidance that our health systems have been able to manage the health needs of Canadians during the pandemic. However, as governments and public health experts consider how we may proceed in lifting certain restrictions, we are beginning to comprehend the enormity of the effort and investment required to resume health care services. During the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services, such as surgeries, procedures and consults considered “non-essential” have been delayed. As health services begin to resume, health systems will be left to grapple with a significant spike in already lengthy waiting times. Further, all health care facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, which may necessitate longer operating hours, increasing staff levels and/or physical renovations. Given these issues, the CMA is gravely concerned that Canada’s already financially struggling health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/ territorial governments are grappling with recession economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic continues. CONCLUSION As outlined in this brief, the overwhelming majority of Canada’s physician practices will be negatively impacted financially by COVID-19. The indefinite postponement of numerous medical procedures, coupled with restrictions related to physical distancing resulting in reduced patient visits, will have a material effect on physician practices, risking their future viability. As well, all FLHCWs will be severely impacted by COVID-19 personally, through risks to themselves and their families. Many families of FLHCWs will also be impacted financially, from increased child-care costs to, tragically, costs associated with the death of a loved one because of COVID-19. In light of these substantial risks and sacrifices, the CMA urges the adoption of the above-mentioned recommendations designed to recognize the special contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs during these extraordinary times.
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Emergency federal measures to care for and protect Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14132
Date
2020-03-16
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-03-16
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
It is with a sense of urgency that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits the recommendations herein for emergency federal measures that, taken together, will ensure Canadians receive appropriate care and that supportive measures are implemented for public health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Canada has made significant strides since SARS to establish and implement effective public health infrastructure, resources and mechanisms, the significant resource constraints across our health systems present a major challenge in our current response. Federal emergency measures must be developed in the context of the current state of health resources: hospitals across the country are already at overcapacity, millions of Canadians lack access to a regular family doctor, countless communities are grappling with health care shortages, virtual care is in its infancy, and so on. Another core concern is the chronic underfunding and ongoing budget cuts of public health resources and programming. Public health capacity and leadership at all levels is fundamental to preparedness to respond to an infectious disease threat, particularly one of this magnitude. It is in this context that the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the following emergency measures be implemented by the federal government to support the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic: 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 1) FEDERAL RECOMMENDATION AND SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING In this time of crisis, Canadians look to the federal government for leadership and guidance. The single most important measure that can be implemented at this time is a consistent national policy calling for social distancing. This recommendation by the federal government must be paired with the resources necessary to ensure that no Canadian will be forced to choose between financial hardship — whether by losing employment or not being able to pay rent — and protecting their health. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government immediately communicate guidance to Canadians to implement social distancing measures. The CMA further recommends that the federal government deliver new financial support measures as well as employment protection measures to ensure that all Canadians may engage in social distancing. 2) NEW FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDING TO BOOST PROVINCIAL/ TERRITORIAL CAPACITY AND ENSURE CONSISTENCY It is the federal government’s role to ensure a coordinated and consistent national response across jurisdictions and regions. This is by far the most important role for the federal government in supporting an effective domestic response, that is, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government deliver substantial emergency funding to the provinces and territories to ensure health systems have the capacity to respond to the pandemic. Across the OECD, countries are rapidly stepping up investment in measures to respond to COVID-19, including significant investment targeting boosting health care capacity. In considering the appropriate level of federal emergency funding to boost capacity in our provincial/territorial systems, the CMA urges the federal government to recognize that our baseline is a position of deficit. New emergency federal funding to boost capacity in provincial/territorial health systems should be targeted to:
rapidly enabling the expansion and equitable delivery of virtual care;
establishing a centralized 24-hour national information hotline for health care workers to obtain clear, timely and practical information on clinical guidelines, etc.;
expanding the capacity of and resources for emergency departments and intensive care units;
coordinating and disseminating information, monitoring and guidance within and across jurisdictions; and
rapidly delivering income stabilization for individuals and families under quarantine. Finally, the inconsistencies in the provision and implementation of guidance and adoption of public health measures across and within and jurisdictions is highly concerning. The CMA strongly encourages the federal government enable consistent adoption of pan-Canadian guidance and measures to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 3) ENSURING AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR CANADIAN HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND ENSURING APPROPRIATE USAGE The CMA is hearing significant concerns from front-line health care workers, including physicians, about the supply and appropriate usage of personal protective equipment. It is the CMA’s understanding that pan-Canadian efforts are underway to coordinate supply; however, additional measures by the federal government to ensure adequate supply and appropriate usage are required. Canada is at the outset of this public health crisis — supply issues at this stage may be exacerbated as the situation progresses. As such, the CMA strongly recommends that the federal government take additional measures to support the acquisition and distribution throughout health systems of personal protective equipment, including taking a leadership role in ensuring our domestic supply via international supply chains. 4) ESTABLISH EMERGENCY PAN-CANADIAN LICENSURE FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health care workers. The CMA urges the federal government to support piloting a national licensure program so that health care providers can opt to practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates or where there is a shortage of providers. This can be accomplished by amending the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) to facilitate mobility of health care workers. Specifically, that the following language be added to Article 705(3) of the CFTA: (j) A regulatory authority of a Party* shall waive for a period of up to 100 days any condition of certification found in 705(3)(a) - (f) for any regulated health care worker to work directly or indirectly to address the Covid-19 pandemic or any health care emergency. Any disciplinary matter emanating from work in any province shall be the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the jurisdiction where the work is performed. Each Party shall instruct its regulatory authorities to set-up a rapid check-in/check-out process for the worker. *Party refers to a signatory of the CFTA To further enable this measure, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver targeted funding to the regulatory colleges to implement this emergency measure as well as targeted funding to support the provinces/territories in delivering expanded patient care. 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 5) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT SERVICE FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS Health care providers may experience trauma and hardship in meeting the increasing health needs and concerns of Canadians in this time of crisis. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government establish an emergency National Mental Health Support Services hotline for all health care providers who are at the front lines of patient care during the pandemic. This critical resource will ensure our health care providers have the help they may need as they care for patients, including helping them to deal with an increasing patient load. 6) IMPLEMENT A TARGETED TAX CREDIT FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL LOSS DUE TO QUARANTINE In addition to supporting income stabilization measures for all Canadians who may benefit from support, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a time-limited and targeted tax credit for health providers who may experience financial loss due to quarantine. Many health care providers operate independently and may face significant fixed expenses as part of their care model. As health care providers may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, this may result in significant financial loss. A time-limited tax credit to ease this loss may help ensure the continued viability of their care model. Further, the CMA supports extending the federal tax filing timeline in recognition of the fact that health care workers and all Canadians are focused on emergency matters. CLOSING The CMA’s recommendations align with the OECD’s call to action: “Governments need to ensure effective and well-resourced public health measures to prevent infection and contagion, and implement well-targeted policies to support health care systems and workers, and protect the incomes of vulnerable social groups and businesses during the virus outbreak.” Now is the time to ensure that appropriate leadership continues and that targeted investments are made to protect the health of Canadians.
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A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs : CMA Submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1968
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Cannabis has adverse effects on the personal health of Canadians and the well-being of society. In making this submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) wishes to make it clear that any change to the criminal status of cannabis must be done so with the recognition that cannabis is an addictive substance and that addiction is a disease. The CMA believes that the government must take a broad public health policy approach to address cannabis use. Focusing on the decriminalization issue alone is inadequate to deal with the complexity of the problem. Changes to the criminal law affecting cannabis must not promote normalization of its use, and must be tied to a national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention, and provides for comprehensive treatment. Under such a multidimensional approach the CMA would endorse decriminalization. In this document, we primarily focus on the health effects of cannabis use. However, we also present information and recommendations on the use of other illegal drugs. While we understand that this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, this information is important to the development of comprehensive policy, which we believe is required. We also recognize and welcome the fact that many of the CMA's recommendations will require a closer working relationship among health providers, justice officials and law enforcement. The CMA's recommendations are: Section 1: Illegal Drugs 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. This document also contains the policies and recommendations of the CMA affiliated association that has specific expertise in the field of substance use disorders the, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM). In addition, for an even broader health-sector perspective, the CMA has attached information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON CANNABIS AND OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to participate in the deliberations of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs. This document was developed by the CMA's new Office for Public Health in consultation with our Affiliate Societies, in particular the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, and our 12 provincial and territorial divisions. The use of illegal drugs and relevant policies is an extremely broad, multi-disciplinary and at times, controversial subject. Considering the breadth of this subject, the limited time-lines and the areas of particular interest of the Committee, this document will focus on the following: * What are the known health effects of cannabis and other illegal drugs? * What experience has there been with the decriminalization of cannabis? * What has been the impact of law enforcement on illegal drug use? * What changes need to be considered in Canada's approach to illegal drug use including the potential decriminalization of drugs? In addition to the above, this document will provide an overview of the relevant policy position statements and recommendations regarding cannabis and drug policy from other key medical organizations from both Canada and the United States. PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON DRUG USE There are many different perspectives on the use of drugs including ethical and moral frameworks. This paper is prepared from a public health perspective where minimizing any harms associated with use is of primary concern. 1 This requires consideration of health issues related not only to the individual user and the drug being used, but also the key social factors associated with use. Drug use is a complex behaviour that is influenced by many factors. It is not possible to identify a single cause for drug use, nor will the set of contributing factors be the same among different drug users and populations. Public health objectives will vary depending upon the circumstances: preventing drug use in those who have not initiated use (e.g. pre-teens); avoiding use in circumstances associated with a risk of adverse outcomes (e.g. drug use and driving motor vehicle); assisting those who wish to stop using the drug (e.g. treatment, rehabilitation); and assisting those who intend to continue to use the drug to do so in such a manner as to reduce the risk of adverse effects (e.g. needle exchange program to reduce risk of HIV). To address this complexity, what is required is a public health strategy to combat drug use utilizing a comprehensive, multi-component approach. Public health strategies focus on the various predisposing, enabling, and re-enforcing factors that influence healthy behaviours and choices. 2 These sets of factors recognize the many influences upon individual behaviour including: individual and social attitudes, beliefs and values; skills; support, self-efficacy and re-enforcement. Public health actions can be grouped into the following major categories: 3 * Developing Personal Skills - education and skill-building (e.g. mass media, skill development to resist peer pressure, thinking skills); * Healthy Public Policy - policies, formal and informal that support health (e.g. school policy, substance use and driving, harm reduction initiatives); * Creating Supportive Environments - social and physical environments (e.g. adequate housing and food, community safety, non-chemical coping mechanisms); * Strengthen Community Action - community involvement in finding solutions (e.g. self-help, social support, community participation); * Health Services - range of services to meet needs (e.g. prevention, assessment, early intervention, treatment, rehabilitation, harm-reduction initiatives). This framework is useful in identifying the range of program components that need to be considered. Relative emphasis between components and the specific interventions selected will vary depending upon the target population (e.g. school students vs. injection drug users). The key is a balanced approach that will influence the factors contributing to less healthy behaviours with support for behaviour change and maintenance. CANNABIS Several commissions and task forces, in Canada and elsewhere, have addressed the issue of how to deal with cannabis use, although frequently their recommendations have not been implemented. 4, 5, 6 It has been suggested that "cannabis is a political football that governments continually duck...(but that) like a football, it bounces back." 7 This section of the paper will review current Canadian levels of use, health effects, law enforcement issues, and experience with decriminalization in other jurisdictions. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey is conducted every two years in grades 7, 9, 11, and 13, although in 1999 all grades from 7-13 were surveyed. Use of cannabis within the preceding year increased from 11.7% of students in 1991, to 29.2% in 1999. 8 Increases were also observed for several other drugs during the same time period (tobacco, alcohol, glue, other solvents, hallucinogens, cocaine, PCP, and ecstasy). Increases in adolescent drug use have also been observed in the US, Europe and Australia through the 1990s. Compared with earlier cohorts, fewer students in 1999 reported early onset of cannabis use (before grade 7) compared with similarly aged students in 1997 and 1981. Past year drug use of cannabis, alcohol and tobacco by grade year is shown in Table 1. The proportion of students who have used one of these drugs increases with increasing grade level. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1 - Past Year Drug Use (%) by Grade Level, Ontario Students, 1999 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Alcohol 39.7 53.7 63.1 74.9 82.0 84.6 83.0 Tobacco 7.4 17.8 27.8 37.4 41.7 38.6 38.0 Cannabis 3.6 14.9 25.5 36.4 48.1 39.4 43.3 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey 9 [TABLE END] The last national survey of illicit drug use in Canada was conducted in 1994. 10 At that time, 23% of Canadians, aged 15 and over, reported having used cannabis more than once during their lifetime with 7% having used it within the preceding year. Current use is much more common in those under the age of 25 and diminishes significantly with age, (Table 2). Most cannabis use is sporadic with the majority of adult and adolescent users using it less than once a week. 11 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 - Lifetime and Current Use of Cannabis in Canada, 1994 Age Lifetime Use (%) Current Use (%) (past 12 months) 15-17 30 24.0 18-19 32.9 23.8 20-24 37.7 19.0 25-34 38.2 9.6 35-44 32.9 5.7 45-54 14.8 1.4 55-64 3.7 - 65+ 0.8 - Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey: 1994 [TABLE END] Health Effects Our understanding of the health effects of cannabis continues to evolve. Hall summarizes the effects into acute and chronic effects and whether these are probable or possible (Table 3). 12 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 3 - Summary of Probable and Possible Health Effects of Cannabis Use Pattern of Use Acute Chronic Probable anxiety, dysphoria, panic, cognitive impairment, psychomotor impairment; chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, dependence, mild cognitive impairment, exacerbation of psychosis; Possible (possible but uncertain, confirmation required in controlled studies) increased risk of traffic accident, psychosis, low-birth-weight babies; cancers in offspring, impaired immunity From CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. [TABLE END] Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. THC is inhaled in the mainstream smoke and absorbed through the lungs, rapidly entering the bloodstream. Effects are perceptible within seconds and fully apparent in a few minutes. Cannabis combines many of the properties of alcohol, tranquilizers, opiates and hallucinogens; it has anxiolytic, sedative, analgesic and psychedelic properties. 13 Its acute toxicity is extremely low, as no deaths directly due to acute cannabis use have ever been reported. The main feature of its use is that it produces a feeling of euphoria (or 'high'). Toxic dose-related effects include anxiety, panic, depression or psychosis.14 It should also be noted that a significant incident of co-morbid addiction occurs in those with physical and mental diseases. People with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are especially vulnerable in that cannabis use can provoke relapse and aggravate existing symptoms. A chronic lack of energy and drive to work in chronic users has been referred to as an "amotivational syndrome," which is currently believed to represent an ongoing intoxication in frequent users. 14 Cannabis slows reaction times, impairs motor coordination and concentration as well as the completion of complex tasks. 13 Due to the extended presence of metabolites in the bloodstream, it is difficult to correlate blood levels with acute impairment making interpretation of crash data difficult. However, it is generally accepted that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle and aircraft crashes. Impairments of attention, memory and the ability to process complex information can last for prolonged periods of time, even years, after cessation of heavy, chronic cannabis use. A cannabis withdrawal syndrome similar to alcohol, opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms exist. 14 Cannabis use increases heart rate and causes blood vessels to dilate. These present a risk for those with pre-existing cardiac disease. Smoke from cannabis preparations contains many of the same compounds as tobacco cigarettes including increased levels of tar. Chronic cannabis smoking is associated with bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic cannabis use may have risks of chronic lung disease and lung cancer comparable to cigarette smoking. With increasing study and experience, it is clear that cannabis, like other substances such as tobacco or alcohol, can have a number of adverse physical and psychological effects. 15 Law Enforcement The 1997 data is the latest year with national drug offences' data for possession, cultivation, trafficking and importation (Figure 1). 16 The proportion of drug incidents is heavily skewed towards cannabis. This is intriguing since the health concerns of cannabis are substantially less than those of heroin or cocaine. [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Figure 1: Proportion of All Drug Incidents by Drug Type, Canada, 1997 [FIGURE END] Of the 66,500 drug incidents in Canada in 1997, over 70% (47,908) were cannabis related. Of these, over two thirds (32,682) were for possession. The rate of cannabis offences has increased 34% since 1991 with cannabis-possession rates increasing steadily from 1991-1996 with a slight drop in 1997. Most (86%) of those charged with cannabis offences were under 25 years of age. It has been estimated that about 2,000 Canadians are sent to jail every year for cannabis possession.17 Despite the current level of enforcement, cannabis use has been increasing with over 40% of grade 11, 12 and 13 students having used cannabis in the preceding year. While it is obvious that only a small percentage of users are being charged, thousands of teens and young adults are being charged every year, receiving criminal records that can impact future employment, future interactions with the justice system, and be a barrier to acquiring citizenship. 11 Findings from several studies indicate that perceived health risk and social disapproval were much more important disincentives to cannabis use than legal threats. 18 Experience with Decriminalization in Other Jurisdictions A number of other jurisdictions have implemented alternative enforcement approaches to the personal use of cannabis. While none of these experiences directly predict what would happen in Canada, they do provide information to address some of the issues raised when decriminalization is considered. Despite the obvious interest in the impact of these policy changes, there is a paucity of well-designed evaluations (i.e. evaluations which were designed and implemented prior to policy change, rather than post-hoc analyses on available data). United States In the 1970s, several US states reduced the legal sanctions for possession of small amounts of cannabis to a maximum penalty of a fine. Despite the substantial potential interest in the effects of such policy changes, evaluative studies were relatively sparse. The available data, though based upon national high school student survey data as well as evaluations in two states, indicated that there was no apparent increase in cannabis use that could be attributed to decriminalization. 19 The high school student national survey data showed that while use of cannabis had increased in those states that had decriminalized possession, the rates of use had increased by a greater amount with stricter laws. California was one of the states which decriminalized possession, and similar to other states, experienced a decrease in cannabis use during the 1980s which based upon student surveys appeared to be due to changing perceptions of health risks rather than changes in the legal status of the drug. 19 Netherlands The Netherlands is the most frequently identified example of a country that altered its approach to marijuana. The Dutch impose no penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis and allow a number of coffee shops to openly sell the drug. 20 This policy therefore is not simply removing the potential for criminal records and imprisonment with possession, but actually partially legalized cannabis sales. This process began in 1976 and coffee shops were not allowed to advertise, could not sell hard drugs, no sales to minors, no public disturbances, and no sales transactions exceeding certain quantity thresholds. Initially this threshold was set at 30 gm of cannabis, a rather large amount which was reduced to 5 gm in 1995. Attempts have been made to compare the prevalence of cannabis use in the Netherlands with other countries. Since cannabis use changes dramatically with age and over different time periods, surveys need to be of similar populations during similar time periods to be comparable. Differences in the wording of questions between surveys also make comparison difficult. A recent review by MacCouin et al makes 28 comparisons between the Netherlands and the US, Denmark, West Germany, Sweden, Finland, France and the UK.21 Overall, it appears that Dutch rates are lower than rates of use in the US but somewhat higher than those of some of its European neighbours. Cannabis use is higher in Amsterdam compared to other Dutch cities and is comparable to use in the US. A limited number of surveys appear to show that from 1984 to 1992, there was a substantial increase in adolescent (aged 16 - 20) use of cannabis that did not occur in other countries. The increases observed from 1992 to 1998 however, were similar to the increases observed in other countries including Canada. Overall, it appears that while the increases in Dutch adolescent use started earlier than other countries, their prevalence of use was much lower than comparison countries so that by the late 1990s they had comparable rates of use to the US and Canada. Australia From 1987 to 1995, three Australian states decriminalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use by replacing penal sanctions with fines. 22 The courts in other states have tended to utilize non-penal sanctions such as a fine or a suspended sentence with a criminal record. The limited number of surveys conducted in Australia has failed to find evidence of any large impact on cannabis use (some of the surveys had small sample sizes and the trend in usage has been upwards in Australian states which did not decriminalize as well as in other countries that continue to prohibit cannabis use). Interestingly, despite the decriminalization, the number of notices issued by police exceeds the number of cannabis offences prior to the change in law. Summary The preceding sections have suggested that cannabis use is relatively common (particularly in teens and young adults); most use is sporadic; its use is increasing; and it is not harmless. Because of these potential harms, one would not wish to encourage its use. There is however, no necessary connection between adverse health effects of any drug or human behaviour and its prohibition by law. 22 The issue is therefore whether there are less coercive ways to discourage its use. Despite the current criminal justice approach where the bulk of all illegal drug charges are cannabis-related and the majority of these are for possession, use is increasing with thousands of teens and young adults receiving criminal records for possession each year. The available evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that decriminalization would not result in a substantial increase in use beyond baseline trends. Considering current trends, a comprehensive approach to discourage current usage is required. OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS Illegal drugs other than cannabis present a different set of issues and concerns. While these drugs are not the primary focus of the Special Senate Committee's study, we have included a few key issues to better put the cannabis issue in proper context. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey of students in grades 7, 9, 11 and 13 has shown that following a lengthy period of decline in drug use during the 1980s, there has been a steady increase in adolescent drug use. 8 Past year drug use in 1999 was reported as follows: ecstasy (4.8%); PCP (3.2%); hallucinogens (13.8%), and cocaine (4.1%). By comparison, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis were 28.3%, 65.7%, and 29.2% respectively. Canadian survey data of those aged 15 and over in 1994 found that about one in twenty reported any lifetime use of LSD, speed or heroin, or cocaine. 10 Rates of use of these drugs within the preceding year were 1% and 0.7% respectively. Health Effects The adverse effects of drugs such as heroin and cocaine are related not just to the drugs themselves, but also increasingly to their method of intake, which is predominantly by injection. Injection drug use (IDU) is an efficient delivery mechanism of drugs, but is also an extremely effective means of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The proportion of HIV infections attributable to IDU has increased from 9% prior to 1985 to over 25% by 1995. 23 IDU is also the predominant means of hepatitis C transmission responsible for 70% of cases. 24 The increasing use of cocaine, which tends to be injected on a more frequent basis, increases the subsequent exposure to infection. It has been estimated that up to 100,000 Canadians inject drugs (not counting steroids). 25 Transmission of bloodborne pathogens is not limited to injection drug users as the disease can then be further spread to sexual contacts, including the sex trade, and vertical transmission from infected mother to child. An epidemic of overdose deaths among injection drug users has been experienced in British Columbia with over 2000 such deaths in Vancouver since 1991. 17 Despite the seriousness of the potential adverse effects of illegal drug use and the potential for this situation to worsen with increasing transmission of bloodborne diseases, on a population basis, legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) are responsible for substantially more deaths, potential years of life lost and hospitalizations. 26 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 4 - The Number of Deaths, Premature Mortality and Hospital Separations for Illicit Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco, Canada, 1995. Deaths Potential Years of Life Lost Hospital Separations Illicit Drugs 805 33,662 6,940 Alcohol 123,734 172,126 82,014 Tobacco 34,728 500,350 193,772 From: Single et al. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675 [TABLE END] Expenditures on Illegal Drugs The direct costs associated with illicit drugs based on 1992 Canadian data are shown in the figure below: [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [FIGURE END] The vast majority of expenditures related to illegal drugs are on law enforcement. Considering the distribution of drug incidents, a substantial proportion of these are related to cannabis offences although health and other costs will predominantly be associated with other drugs. A substantial proportion of drug charges are for possession as compared with trafficking or importation (cocaine 42%; heroin 42%; other drugs 56%). 16 Despite illegal drug use being primarily a health and social issue, current expenditures do not reflect this and are heavily skewed towards a criminal justice approach. Unfortunately, prisons are not an ideal setting for treating addictions with the potential for continued transmission of bloodborne viruses. RECOMMENDATIONS The Need for Balanced, Comprehensive Approaches Reasons for drug use, particularly "hard drugs," are complex. It is not clear how a predominantly law enforcement approach is going to address the determinants of drug use, treat addictions, or reduce the harms associated with drug use including overdoses and the transmission of bloodborne viruses including HIV. Costs of incarceration are substantially more than the use of effective drug treatment. 27 It appears that there is an over dependence on the law when other models might be more effective in achieving the desired objective of preventing or reducing harm from drug use. 18 Aggressive law enforcement at the user level could exacerbate these harms by encouraging the use of the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the most concentrated forms, 28 because these are easier to conceal and the efficacy of injecting is greater than that of inhaling as drug costs increase in response to prohibition and enforcement. 29 There have been several recent sets of recommendations from expert groups regarding the need for a comprehensive set of approaches to address the public health challenges due to drug use, particularly those associated with injection drug use (IDU). 17, 25, 30, 31 Recommendations include the following components: * address prevention; * treatment and rehabilitation; * research; * surveillance and knowledge dissemination; * national leadership and coordination. Many of the recommendations will require close working relationships with justice/enforcement officials. Drug abuse and dependency is a chronic, relapsing disease for which there are effective treatments.32 A criminal justice approach to a disease is inappropriate particularly when there is increasing consensus that it is ineffective and exacerbates harms.33 The CMA's recommendations have been separated into two separate sections. The first set of recommendations is focused on policies affecting illegal drugs in general. While this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, in our opinion, these recommendations are equally important for the Committee to consider. The second set of recommendations is specifically focused on cannabis. Our recommendations in this section take into consideration the health impact profile of cannabis, current levels of use, extent and impact of law enforcement activities and experience from other jurisdictions. Section 1: Illegal Drugs The CMA recommends: 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis The CMA recommends: 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. CANADIAN SOCIETY OF ADDICTION MEDICINE The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), which was formed in 1989, is a national organization of medical professionals and other scientists interested in the field of substance use disorders. Vision The Society shares its overall goals with many other organizations and groups in Canada; namely, the prevention of problems arising from the use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, and the cure; improvement or stabilization of the adverse consequences associated with the use of these drugs. This Society aims to achieve these goals through the fostering and promotion of medical sciences and clinical practice in this field in Canada, particularly by: * fostering and promotion of the roles of physicians in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * improvement in the quality of medical practice in the drug and alcohol field through: establishment and promotion of standards of clinical practice; fostering and promotion of research; and fostering and promotion of medical education; * promotion of professional and public awareness of the roles that physicians can play in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * fostering and promotion of further development of programs for the prevention and treatment of problems of alcohol and drug use in physicians; and * contributing to professional and public examination and discussion of important issues in the drug and alcohol field. Policy Statement The CSAM National Drug Policy statement requires that: Canada must have a clear strategy for dealing with the cultivation, manufacture, importation, distribution, advertising, sale, possession and use of psychoactive substances regardless of whether they are classified as legal or illegal. Drug possession for personal use must be decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal sale/distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal sanctions. The individual and public health impact of substance use, substance abuse and substance dependence must be taken into account at all times. An assessment to ascertain the extent of a substance use disorder and screening for addiction must be an essential part of dealing with someone identified as an illicit drug user or possessor. Appropriate funding must be made available for supply reduction and demand reduction of various psychoactive substances that carry an abuse or addiction liability. Recommendations 1. National policies and regulations must present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence regardless of the classification of "legal" or "illegal" 2. Prevention programs need to be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs to enhance public awareness and affect social attitudes with scientific information about the pharmacology of drugs and the effects of recreational and problem use on individuals, families, communities and society. 3. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons with addiction need to be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 4. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs need to be balanced with evidenced based treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate addiction and its related problems. 5. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: * access to young people and prevalence of use among youth; * prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; * prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; * crime, violence and incarceration rates; * law enforcement and criminal justice costs; * industrial safety and productivity; * costs to the health care system; * family and social disruption; * other human, social and economic costs. 6. CSAM opposes * any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). All changes need to be gradual and carefully monitored. * any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 7. CSAM supports * public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons with psychoactive substance dependence and whose offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. Those who are found guilty of an offense related to Addiction, proper assessment and treatment services must be offered as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. * an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. RELEVANT POSITION STATEMENTS OF OTHER MEDICAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS The purpose of this section is to provide the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs with information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health34 The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) does not encourage or promote cannabis use. CAMH emphasizes that the most effective way of avoiding cannabis-related harms is through not using cannabis, and encourages people to seek treatment where its use has become a problem. Cannabis is not a benign drug. Cannabis use, and in particular frequent and long-term cannabis use, has been associated with negative health and behavioural consequences, including respiratory damage, problems with physical coordination, difficulties with memory and cognition, pre- and post-natal development problems, psychiatric effects, hormone, immune and cardio-vascular system defects, as well as poor work and school performance. The consequences of use by youth and those with a mental disorder are of particular concern. However, most cannabis use is sporadic or experimental and hence not likely to be associated with serious negative consequences. CAMH thus holds the position that the criminal justice system in general, and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) specifically, under which cannabis possession is a criminal offence, has become an inappropriate control mechanism. This conclusion is based on the available scientific knowledge on the effects of cannabis use, the individual consequences of a criminal conviction, the costs of enforcement, and the limited effectiveness of the criminal control of cannabis use. CAMH thus concurs with similar recent calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that the control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the CDSA and the criminal law/criminal justice system. While harmful health consequences exist with extensive cannabis use, CAMH believes that the decriminalization of cannabis possession will not lead to its increased use, based on supporting evidence from other jurisdictions that have introduced similar controls. CAMH recommends that a more appropriate legal control framework for cannabis use be put into place that will result in a more effective and efficient control system, produce fewer negative social and individual consequences, and maintain public health and safety. An alternative legal control system for the Canadian context can be chosen from a number of options that have been tried and proven adequate in other jurisdictions. CAMH further recommends that such an alternative framework be explored on a temporary and rigorously evaluated trial basis, and that an appropriate level of funding be provided/maintained for prevention and treatment programs to minimize the prevalence of cannabis use and its associated harms. American Society of Addiction Medicine 35 The Society's 1994 policy which was updated September 2001 recommends the following: 1. National policy should present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence. 2. Reliance on the distinction between "legal" and "illegal" drugs is a misleading one, since so-called "legal" drugs are illegal for persons under specified ages, or under certain circumstances. 3. Prevention programs should be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs as well as to produce changes in social attitudes. (See ASAM Prevention Statement.) 4. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons suffering from drug dependencies, including alcoholism and nicotine dependence, should be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 5. Persons suffering from the diseases of alcoholism and other drug dependence should be offered treatment rather than punished for their status of dependence. 6. The balance of resources devoted to combatting these problems should be shifted from a predominance of law enforcement to a greater emphasis on treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate drug dependence and its related problems. 7. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs should be aimed with the greatest intensity at those causing the most serious acute problems to society. 8. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: a. prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; b. prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; c. crime, violence and incarceration rates; d. law enforcement and criminal justice costs; e. industrial safety and productivity; f. costs to the health care system; g. family and social disruption; h. other human, social and economic costs. 9. ASAM opposes any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). Any changes should be gradual and carefully monitored. 10. ASAM opposes any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 11. ASAM supports public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons who are suffering from psychoactive substance dependence and whose only offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. 12. ASAM supports public policies which offer appropriate treatment and rehabilitation to persons suffering from psychoactive substance dependence who are found guilty of an offense related to that dependence, as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. 13. ASAM supports an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. 14. In addition, scientifically sound research into public policy issues should receive increased support and be given a high priority as an aid in making such decisions. 15. Physicians and medical societies should remain active in the effort to shape national drug policy and should continue to promote a public health approach to alcoholism and other drug dependencies based on scientific understanding of the causes, development and treatment of these diseases. US Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy 32 The Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP) was started in 1997 when 37 senior physicians from virtually every medical society* met and agreed that the "current criminal justice driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling drug abuse in America." Their extensive review of the literature found: * drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, like diabetes or hypertension; * treatment for drug addiction works; * treating addiction saves money; * treating drug addiction restores families and communities; * prevention and education help deter youth from substance abuse, delinquency, crime and incarceration. In follow-up to an extensive review of the literature, their key policy recommendations are: * Reallocate resources toward drug treatment and prevention; * Parity in access to care, treatment benefits, and clinical outcomes; * Reduce the disabling regulation of addiction treatment programs; * Utilize effective criminal justice procedures to reduce supply and demand (e.g. community coalitions, community policing, drug courts); * Expand investments in research and training; * Eliminate the stigma associated with the diagnosis and treatment of drug problems; * Train physicians and (medical) students to be clinically competent in diagnosing and treating drug problems. REFERENCES 1 Mosher JF, Yanagisako KL. Public health, not social warfare: a public health approach to illegal drug policy. J Public Health Policy 1991; 12: 278-323. 2 Precede - proceed model of health promotion. Institute of Health Promotion Research. Available from: http://www.ihpr.ubc.ca/frameset/frset_publicat.htm. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 3 World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion. Ottawa: World Health Organization, 1986. 4 Dean M. UK government rejects advice to update drug laws. Lancet 2000; 355: 1341. 5 Curran WJ. Decriminalization, demythologizing, desymbolizing and deemphasizing marijuana. Am J Public Health. 1972; 62: 1151-1152. 6 Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs. Ottawa, 1972. 7 Anonymous. Deglamorising cannabis. Lancet 1995; 346: 1241. (editorial) 8 Edlaf EM, Paglia A, Ivis FJ, Ialomiteanu A. Nonmedicinal drug use among adolescent students: highlights from the 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1677-1680. 9 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey - executive summary. Available from: http://www.camh.net/addiction/ont_study_drug_use.html. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 10 MacNeil P, Webster I. Canada's alcohol and other drugs survey 1994: a discussion of the findings. Ottawa: Health Canada, 1997. 11 Single E, Fischer B, Room R, Poulin C, Sawka E, Thompson H, Topp J. Cannabis control in Canada: options regarding possession. Ottawa, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1998. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/. 12 Hall W. The cannabis policy debate: finding a way forward. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. 13 Ashton CH. Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 101-106. 14 Johns A. Psychiatric effects of cannabis. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 116-122. 15 Farrell M, Ritson B. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 98. 16 Tremblay S. Illicit drugs and crime in Canada. Juristat 1999; 19. 17 Riley D. Drugs and drug policy in Canada: a brief review and commentary. November, 1998. Available from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/ill-e/library-e/riley-e.htm. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 18 Erickson PG. The law, social control, and drug policy: models, factors, and processes. Int J Addiction 1993; 28: 1155-1176. 19 Single EW. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update. J Public Health Policy 1989; 10: 456-66. 20 MacCoun R. Interpreting Dutch cannabis policy: reasoning by analogy in the legalization debate. Science 1997; 278: 47-52. 21 MacCoun R, Reuter P. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes. Br J Psychiat 2001; 178: 123-128. 22 Hall W. The recent Australian debate about the prohibition on cannabis use. Addiction 1997; 92: 1109-1115. 23 Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users in Canada. May 2001. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/bah/epi/idus_e.html. Accessed Oct 17, 2001. 24 Hepatitis C - prevention and control : a public health consensus. Can Communic Dis Rep 1999; 25S2. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/publicat/ccdr/99vol25/25s2/index.html. Accessed: Oct 17, 2001. 25 F/P/T Advisory Committee on Population Health et al. Reducing the harm associated with injection drug use in Canada: working document for consultation. March 2001. Available from: http://www.aidslaw.ca/Maincontent/issues/druglaws.htm. Accessed: Oct 14, 2001. 26 Single E, Rehm J, Robson L, Van Truong M. The relative risks and etiologic fractions of different causes of death attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use in Canada. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675. 27 Marwick C. Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy finds addiction treatment works. JAMA 1999; 279: 1149-1150. 28 Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB. The war on drugs - a peace proposal. N Eng J Med 1994: 330: 357-360. 29 Hankins C. Substance use: time for drug law reform. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1693-1694. 30 National Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use. HIV/AIDS and injection drug use: a national action plan. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Canadian Public Health Association. May 1997. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/docs/HIVAIDS.HTM. Accessed: Oct 15, 2001. 31 Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Injection drug use and HIV/AIDS: legal and ethical issues. Montreal: Network, 1999. 32 Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Position paper on drug policy. January 2000. Available from: http://center.butler.brown.edu/plndp/. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 33 The Fraser Institute. Sensible solutions to the urban drug problem. 2001. Available from: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/publications/books/drug_papers/. Accessed: Nov 29, 2001. 34 Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH Position on the legal sanctions related to cannabis possession/use. April 2000. Available from: www.camh.net/position_papers/cannabis_42000.html. Accessed Oct 9, 2001. 35 American Society of Addiction Medicine. Public policy of ASAM. Adopted 1994. Updated Sept 29, 2001. Available from: www.asam.org. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. ?? ?? ?? ?? A healthy population...a vibrant medical profession Une population en santé...une profession médicale dynamique A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs Ottawa, March 11, 2002 Page 21 Canadian Medical Association
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CMA Letter to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs regarding Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9110
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-02-19
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2008-02-19
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs concerning its study of Bill C-2 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). We will confine our comments to the portion of the proposed legislation that relates to impaired driving. Canada's physicians support measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups. Published reports indicate that the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis is on the rise in Canada. We note that: * Results from the Canadian Addictions Survey suggest that 4% of the population have driven under the influence of cannabis in the past year, an increase from the 1.5% in 2003 and that rates are higher among young people.1 * It was estimated that in 2003, 27.45% of traffic fatalities involved alcohol, 9.15% involved alcohol and drugs, and 3.66% involved drugs alone while 13.71% of crash injuries involved only alcohol, 4.57% involved alcohol and drugs, and 1.83% involved drugs alone.2 * In a 2002 survey, 17.7% of drivers reported driving within 2 hours of using a prescribed medication, over-the-counter remedy, marijuana, or other illicit drug during the past 12 months. * These results suggest that an estimated 3.7 million Canadians drove after taking some medication or drug that could potentially affect their ability to drive safely. * The most common drugs used were over-the-counter medications (15.9%), prescription drugs (2.3%), marijuana (1.5%), and other illegal drugs (0.9%). * Young males were most likely to report using marijuana and other illegal drugs. * While 86% of the drivers were aware that a conviction for impaired driving results in a criminal record, 66% erroneously believed that the penalties for drug-impaired driving were less severe than those for alcohol-impaired driving. In fact, the penalties are identical. * Over 80% of drivers agreed that drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs should be required to participate in physical coordination testing for drug impairment. However, only about 70% of drivers agreed that all drivers involved in a serious collision or suspected of drug impairment should be required to provide a blood sample.3 The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. While our 1999 brief focused primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. In June 2007, the CMA provided comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons during their study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts) which was later incorporated in the omnibus Bill now before your Committee. Last year, the CMA published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles. It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence. While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions. Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour. While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues, with regard to Clause 20 that amends the act as follows: 254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations (a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers; (b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and (c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1). CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection. Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and the privacy of health information. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 25 of Bill-C2 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake. For instance, clause 25(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws. Moreover, clause 25(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could concern individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence. One should query whether the Clause 25(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other privacy related issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material. CMA would ask whether clause 25(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research. CMA also notes with interest Clause 21, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 21) We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.4 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.5 In our 1999 response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' issue paper on impaired driving6 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 7 CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%. We also wanted to note our support for Clause 23 which addresses the issue of liability by extending the existing umbrella of immunity for qualified medical practitioners to the new provision under 254(3.4) 23. Subsection 257(2) of the Act is replaced by the following: (2) No qualified medical practitioner by whom or under whose direction a sample of blood is taken from a person under subsection 254(3) or (3.4) or section 256, and no qualified technician acting under the direction of a qualified medical practitioner, incurs any criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill when taking the sample. Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-2, must be accompanied by a public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective long-term approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs. Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure. Yours sincerely, Brian Day, MD President 1 Bedard, M, Dubois S, Weaver, B. The impact of cannabis on driving, Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol 98, 6-11, 2006 2 G. Mercer, Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2003 (Vancouver: Applied Research and Evaluation Services, 2005). 3 D. Beirness, H. Simpson and K. Desmond, The Road Safety Monitor 2002: Drugs and Driving (Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2003). Online: www.trafficinjuryResearch.com/whatNew/newsItemPDFs/RSM_02_Drugs_and_ Driving.pdf 4 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E. 5 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13 6 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999 7 Mann et al
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