Those were the words of Minister of Health Ginette Taylor in November 2017, spoken as the government of Canada began to put together Bill 45, known as The Cannabis Act. Over a year has passed since the enactment of Bill 45 and questions still remain regarding the safety of legal cannabis to our pregnant population, both in the short- and long-term. Even preceding the legalization of cannabis in Canada, a 2017 survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) indicated that from 1996–2017, adults of reproductive age (i.e., 18–29 years) in Ontario reported the biggest increase in cannabis use, from 18.3% to 39.1%.3 Moreover, in 2017, the proportion of Ontarians reporting cannabis use in a span of just 1 year rose from 15.7% to 19.4%, representing a total of 2 million people. These trends in usage are of great concern, especially when considering that over the last decade, cannabis use has progressively increased in pregnant women, along with the perception that it poses no risk in perinatal life. Aside from the brain, activation of cannabinoid receptors by Δ9-THC or CBD in peripheral tissues (e.g., pancreas, heart, adipose, and liver) during pregnancy could also directly influence the development of those organs, and consequentially, their function in postnatal life. In addition, Δ9-THC in pregnancy may have indirect effects on long-term non-communicable diseases given that it impedes fetal growth, which is a strong predictor of metabolic disease risk in human offspring.
The Canadian government is taking a public health approach to legalizing, strictly regulating, and restricting access to cannabis.