Evaluating the impact of cannabis legalization in the Canadian territories.

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region, Qikiqtaaluk Region

Tags: social sciences, policy, public health, public awareness, cannabis, legalization

Principal Investigator: Hobin, Erin P (5)
Licence Number: 16960
Organization: Public Health Ontario
Licensed Year(s): 2022 2021
Issued: Aug 08, 2022
Project Team: David Hammond, Samantha Goodman, Theresa Poon

Objective(s): To examine prevalence and patterns of non-medical cannabis use, including use among young adults, age of initiation, and levels of dependence and to evaluate the effectiveness of specific regulatory policies, including consumer awareness and knowledge of product health warnings, exposure to cannabis marketing, exposure to public education campaigns, and cannabis use in public spaces and workplaces.

Project Description: This licence has been issued for the scientific research application No.5144.

The study has five objectives: 1) To examine prevalence and patterns of non-medical cannabis use, including use among young adults, age of initiation, and levels of dependence; 2) To examine the cannabis retail environment, including the extent to which consumers shift from illicit sources to legal retail sources, and the types of products used, including high potency products; 3) To assess changes in problematic use and risk behaviours, including driving after cannabis use, use in high risk occupational settings, and co-use with other types of psychoactive substances (e.g., opioids, alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes); 4) To examine changes in perceptions of risk and social norms; and 5) To evaluate the effectiveness of specific regulatory policies, including consumer awareness and knowledge of product health warnings, exposure to cannabis marketing, exposure to public education campaigns, and cannabis use in public spaces and workplaces.

A population-based online survey will be conducted among a total of 1,500 participants (500 in each of the 3 territories) aged 16+. The consent information and online survey will be available in English, French, Inuktitut, and Inuinnaqtun. The online survey was used in a small pilot conducted among approximately 350 participants aged 19+ in NWT and Yukon in 2018, as well as a larger international study conducted among approximately 110,000 participants aged 16+ residing in Canada and the United States over the last 3 years.

The research team are aiming to recruit study participants aged 16+ from across NWT using multiple strategies, including online platforms (e.g., social media, online local newspaper advertisements) and local radio announcements, as well as in-person recruitment in Yellowknife, Inuvik, and Hay River. For the in-person recruitment, the team are planning to hire a total of 4 local research assistants, 2 in Yellowknife, and 1 in each of Inuvik and Hay River, to help with distributing recruitment materials at local community centres and other public venues in these communities.

Recruitment will occur for 6 weeks in September to October each year for 3 years (2021, 2022, and 2023). Participants will be invited to complete the online survey conducted in September and October each year for up to 3 years. All data collections will occur online over a period of up to 8 weeks each year.

As the research team are aiming to recruit study participants across NWT, the Department of Health and Social Services and Hotiì ts’eeda advised us to connect with community leaders across NWT prior to submitting the research license application to provide study information and invite feedback. The team took a similar approach when applying for a research license for the pilot conducted in NWT and Yukon in 2018. In the feedback received from the community leaders in NWT and Yukon for the pilot study, the team were advised to extend participant recruitment beyond Yellowknife and Whitehorse to smaller communities across the territories, given that cannabis use may differ between capital regions and smaller communities. The team have incorporated this feedback in the current proposed study.

During the 2021 research license application process, the research team reached out via email and by telephone to the 64 Indigenous and government organizations indicated in the Aurora Research Institute’s (ARI’s) Portal to Online License Applications for Research (POLAR), as well as the Government of NWT Regional Wellness Councils, to provide study information and invite feedback. During the Wave 1 data collection period, the Indigenous and government organizations were contacted to request for their support in promoting the study through their networks and by posting study posters on physical bulletin boards and/or on social media.

In addition, the research team have received a letter of support from the NWT Chief Public Health Officer. The research team also has communicated with the Department of Health and Social Services and Hotiì ts’eeda in NWT. Staff in the Department of Health and Social Services have been meaningfully involved since October 2020 in designing the study, developing the research objectives, and providing feedback on the survey tool and recruitment strategies. Staff at Hotiì ts’eeda also have provided feedback on recruitment strategies and reviewed the survey tool.

Each year of the study, summaries of study findings will be provided via email to the Indigenous and government organizations, including the ARI, Hotiì ts’eeda, NWT Chief Public Health Officer, NWT Department of Health and Social Services, and Health Canada. The Principal Investigators will host presentations of the results with territorial partners each year of the study, if there is interest. In addition, aggregated results will be shared on the project website (www.cannabisproject.ca/territories), in publications, and at conferences. No identifying information will be used in any reports. Of note, Indigenous identity will not be used in any of the analyses; aggregated data on Indigenous identity will only be used to describe the characteristics of the sample.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 1, 2022 to October 31, 2022