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Proposed UN Convention on the rights of older persons

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13925
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2018-07-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy endorsement
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2018-07-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Dear Minister Freeland: We are a national consortium of experts who serve and advocate for the needs and rights of older people. We are delighted by the recent appointment of a new Minister of Seniors, and send our congratulations to the Honourable Filomena Tassi. We are also encouraged by our Government’s commitment to support the health and economic well-being of all Canadians, and heartened by your promise to listen to, and to be informed by feedback from Canadians. It is in this spirit that we are writing today regarding the need for Canada to provide support and leadership with a goal of developing and ratifying a United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. In the context of massive global demographic shifts and an aging population, insightful and careful reflection by the leaders of our organizations has led to universal and strong support for the creation and implementation of a UN Convention to specifically recognize and protect the human rights of our older persons. A UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons will:
enshrine their rights as equal with any other segment of the population with the same legal rights as any other human being;
categorically state that it is unacceptable to discriminate against older people throughout the world;
clarify the state’s role in the protection of older persons;
provide them with more visibility and recognition both nationally and internationally, which is vitally important given the rate at which Canadian and other societies are ageing;
advance the rights of older women at home and as a prominent factor in Canada’s foreign policy;
have a positive, real-world impact on the lives of older citizens who live in poverty, who are disproportionately older women, by battling ageism that contributes to poverty, ill-health, social isolation, and exclusion;
support the commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples; members of the LGBTQ community, and visible and religious minorities; and,
provide an opportunity for Canada to play a leadership role at the United Nations while at the same time giving expression to several of the Canadian government’s stated foreign policy goals. We have projected that the cost and impact of not having such a Convention would have a significant negative impact on both the physical and mental health of older Canadians. The profound and tragic consequence would have a domino effect in all domains of their lives including social determinants of health, incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases, social and psychological functioning, not to mention massive financial costs to society. There is recognition of this need internationally and ILC-Canada, along with other Canadian NGOs and organizations have been active at the UN to help raise awareness of the ways a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons would contribute to all countries. Changes have already been implemented by our Government that are consistent and aligned with a UN Convention, such as improving the income of vulnerable Canadian seniors, funding for long term care and support for community based dementia programs. These initiatives are all in keeping with support for a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. They are also reflective of our country’s commitment to engage more fully with the United Nations and provide Canada the stage to demonstrate leadership on a vital international issue. It is an opportunity to champion the values of inclusive government, respect for diversity and human rights including the human rights of women. Scientific evidence demonstrates that human rights treaties help to drive positive change in the lives of vulnerable groups of people. In many countries in the world, older people are not adequately protected by existing human rights law, as explicit references to age are exceedingly rare. Even in countries like Canada, where there are legal frameworks that safeguard older people, a Convention would provide an extra layer of protection, particularly if the Convention has a comprehensive complaints mechanism. Older adults need to be viewed as a growing but underutilized human resource. By strengthening their active role in society including the workforce, they have tremendous capacity, knowledge, and wisdom to contribute to the economy and general well-being of humankind. We are requesting you meet with our representatives, to discuss the vital role of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons and the role your government could play in improving the lives of older people in Canada and around the world. The fact that Canada is ageing is something to celebrate. We are all ageing, whether we are 20 or 85. This is a ”golden opportunity” to showcase Canada as a nation that will relentlessly pursue doing the “right thing” for humanity by supporting a UN Convention that ensures that our future is bright. Please accept our regards, and thank you for your attention to this request. We await your response. Sincerely, Margaret Gillis, President, International Longevity Centre Canada Dr. Kiran Rabheru, Chair of the Board, International Longevity Centre Canada Linda Garcia, Director, uOttawa LIFE Research Institute cc: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada The Honourable Filomena Tassi Minister of Seniors The Honourable Jean Yves Duclos Minister for Families, Children and Social Development Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard Permanent Representative to Canada at the United Nations The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor Health Minister Margaret Gillis President International Longevity Centre Canada Dr. Kiran Rabheru Chair of the Board, International Longevity Centre Canada Linda Garcia, PhD Director LIFE Research Institute Dr. Laurent Marcoux President Canadian Medical Association Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP Chief Executive Officer Dani Prud’Homme Directeur général FADOQ Peter Lukasiewicz Chief Executive Officer Gowling WLG Dr. Dallas Seitz, MD, FRCPC President, CAGP Dr. Frank Molnar President, Canadian Geriatrics Society Dr. David Conn Co-Leader Canadian Coalition for Senior’s Mental Health Claire Checkland Director - Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health Joanne Charlebois Chief Executive Officer, Speech-Language & Audiology Canada Claire Betker President Canadian Nurses Association Janice Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW Title/Organization: President, Canadian Association of Social Workers / Présidente, l’Association canadienne des travail- leurs sociaux François Couillard Chief Executive Officer/Chef de la direction Ondina Love, CAE Chief Executive Officer Canadian Dental Hygienists Association Jean-Guy Soulière President/Président National Association of Federal Retirees /Association nationale des retraités fédéraux Sarah Bercier Executive Director Laura Tamblyn Watts National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy Founder Fountain of Health Dr. Beverley Cassidy Geriatric Psychiatris Seniors Mental Health Dalhousie University Dept of Psychiatry Jenny Neal and Janet Siddall CO Chairs, Leadership Team Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) Kelly Stone President and CEO Families Canada Dr. Becky Temple, MD, CCFP, CCPE President, CSPL Medical Director Northeast, Northern Health Medical Lead Privilege Dictionary Review, BCMQI J. Van Aerde, MD, MA, PhD, FRCPC Clinical Professor of Pediatrics - Universities of Alberta & British Columbia, Canada Associate Faculty - Leadership Studies - Royal Roads Univ, Victo- ria, BC, Canada Past-President - Canadian Society of Physician Leaders Editor-in-Chief / Canadian Journal of Physician Leadership Dr. Rollie Nichol, MD, MBA, CCFP, CCPE Vice-President, CSPL Associate Chief Medical Officer, Alberta Health Services Dr. Shannon Fraser, MSc, FRCSC, FACS Secretary / Treasurer, CSPL Chief General Surgery Jewish General Hospital Linda Gobessi MD FRCPC Medical Director Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa Ottawa Vickie Demers Executive Director / Directrice générale Services communautaires de géronto- psychiatrie d’ Ottawa Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa Ging-Yuek Robin Hsiung, MD MHSc FRCPC FACP FAAN Associate Professor Ralph Fisher and Alzheimer Society of BC Professor Director of Clinical Research Director of Fellowship in Behavioural Neurology UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer and Related Disorders Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine University of British Columbia Adriana Shnall Senior Social Worker Baycrest Health Sciences Harinder Sandhu, D.D.S., Ph.D Professor and Past Director Schulich Dentistry & Vice Dean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Western University Dr. Christopher Frank, Chair of Geriatric Education and Recruitment Initiative Jennie Wells, MD Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine Chair/Chief Division of Geriatric Medicine Parkwood Institute Laura Diachun, MD Program Director, Undergrad Geriatric Education University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine Parkwood Institute Sheri-Lynn Kane, MD Program Director Internal Medicine Dept of Medicine Education Office Victoria Hospital Niamh O’Regan, MB ChB, Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario Parkwood Institute Michael Borrie, MB ChB, FRCPC Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine Parkwood Institute Jenny Thain, MRCP (Geriatrics) Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine Victoria Hospital Peter R. Butt MD CCFP FCFP Assoc. Professor, Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan Mamta Gautam, MD, MBA, FRCPC, CCPE Dept of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa Psychiatrist, Psychosocial Oncology Program, The Ottawa Hospital President and CEO, PEAK MD Inc. Dr. Shabbir Amanullah Chair, ICPA Arun V. Ravindran, MBBS, MSc, PhD, FRCPC, FRCPsych Professor and Director, Global Mental Health and the Office of Fellowship Training, Department of Psychiatry, Graduate Faculty, Department of Psychology and Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto Sarah Thompson, MD, FRCPC Geriatric Psychiatrist Seniors’ Mental Health Team Addictions and Mental Health Program Louise Plouffe, Ph.D. Director of Research, ILC Canada (retired) Kimberley Wilson, PhD, MSW Assistant Professor, Adult Development & Aging, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph Andrew R. Frank M.D. B.Sc.H. F.R.C.P.(C) Cognitive and Behavioural Neurologist Medical Director, Bruyère Memory Program Bruyère Continuing Care Ottawa, Canada Diane Hawthorne Family Physician BSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP Dr. Ken Le Clair Prof Emeritus Queens University and. Lead Policy Physician Consultant to Ontario. Seniors Behavioral Support Initative Queens University
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Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy188
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-09-30
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-09-30
Replaces
Position paper on direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (1986)
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) Policy Statement Canadians have a right to information about prescription drugs and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information must be evidence based and provide details about side effects and health risks as well as benefits. Brand-specific direct-to-consumer advertisements, such as those permitted in the United States, do not provide optimal information on prescription drugs. We are concerned that DTCA: * is not information but marketing, and sends the message that a prescription drug is a “consumer good” rather than a health care benefit. * may not provide enough information to allow the consumer to make appropriate drug choices. For example, it generally does not provide information about other products or therapies that could be used to treat the same condition. In addition, it may stimulate demand by exaggerating the risks of a disease and generating unnecessary fear. * may strain the relationship between patients and providers, for example if a patient’s request for an advertised prescription drug is refused. * drives up the cost of health care, and undermines the efforts of physicians, pharmacists and others to promote optimal drug therapy. Patient groups, health care providers, governments and pharmaceutical manufacturers should be supported in activities to develop objective, reliable plain-language information about prescription drugs to ensure that Canadians are able to make informed health care decisions. Therefore we: * Support the provision of objective, evidence-based, reliable plain-language information for the public about prescription drugs. * Oppose direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in Canada.
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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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Disability Tax Credit Program : CMA Submission to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (House of Commons)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1972
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy. The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act. However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored. In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission). The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component. The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC. Physician Involvement in the DTC Program The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive. Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today. Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program: * The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. * The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible. * The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf. * Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals. * A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced. * A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken. The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations. Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups. We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers. Program Integrity A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process. Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient. There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised. Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. Fairness and Equity The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society. However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below. 1) Defining “disability” One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform. In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 2) Remuneration The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not. Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators. Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider. Tax Advisor Referrals With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit. The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support. This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment. Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment. As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. Conclusion The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions: 1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration. 6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. 7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population. i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001 ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.
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