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Health Canada wants you to know that “cannabis can be addictive” but is that true?

Manisha Krishnan

Mar 20 2018, 8:25pm Health Canada wants all weed to be labelled with health risks. Photos via Health Canada/Flickr user Dank Depot

You won’t be able to miss the Canadian government’s glaring, yellow health risk warnings that will be slapped onto every gram of legal weed sold in this country come legalization.

According to a set of proposed rules released by Health Canada Monday , the government wants licensed weed producers to sell weed in plain coloured packaging (the example they used was white), with a red stop sign graphic that indicates the product contains THC, and a separate yellow health warning.

Canada’s Legal Weed Is Going To Look Like Packaged Tea

Our government can make anything uncool!

Vice / Manisha Krishnan / March 19, 2018

The warnings the government has proposed for weed sound pretty dramatic. (Especially when you consider that alcohol, a substance with far graver health effects, doesn’t come with these types of warnings.)

In a media briefing Monday, Eric Costen, Director General of the federal government’s Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat, said the messaging is based on “an exhaustive review of all the available scientific research on cannabis.”


Nonetheless, VICE reached out to experts to fact check the proposed warnings.

WARNING: Cannabis smoke is harmful. Harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke are also found in cannabis smoke.

It’s true that smoking weed will have negative health impacts, David Hammond, a professor at the University of Waterloo’s school of public health, told VICE. “People don’t realize if you light any organic material on fire, it will produce thousands of chemicals. Most of the chemicals that cause cancer are just from smoke,” he said. He recommended people vape cannabis instead of smoking it.

However, Jenna Valleriani, a PhD student at the University of Toronto who researches cannabis, said there are far more studies on tobacco smoke than weed smoke so it’s hard to definitively say the latter is just as harmful as the former. The reason for this is cannabis is illegal so there haven’t been a ton of clinical trials on it.

According to the American Lung Association, smoking weed heavily can damage the lungs and lead to conditions like chronic bronchitis.In an interview with Health , Steven Hoffman, a scientific director for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, pointed out that we don’t know “whether or not cannabis itself causes or possibly even prevents cancer from developing.” Verdict: It’s complicated WARNING: Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. Using cannabis during pregnancy may harm your baby and result in low birth weight. Substances found in cannabis are also found in the breast milk of mothers who use cannabis. AdvertisementOnce again, there’s limited research on this subject, however the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse says cannabis is the most popular "illicit drug" used during pregnancy and that prenatal exposure has been linked to adverse effects on cognitive development as well as premature birth and low birth weights.A 2012 Pediatric Research article found that babies who had mothers that smoked cannabis during pregnancy were born 375 grams lighter than babies born to non-smoking moms.Hammond told VICE that, as with nicotine or alcohol, mothers will pass on substances they ingest to their babies, both before they are born and during nursing. “Exactly how harmful it is, that’s really tricky,” said Hammond, because of the lack of clinical trials and women’s reluctance to admit they they have consumed an illicit drug while pregnant. A Jamaican study that tracked babies born to mothers […]

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