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National survey on cannabis highlights need to invest in nurse-led public education

Ottawa, November 14, 2017 — A new national survey reveals that only 62 per cent of nurses consider themselves knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about the risks associated with recreational/non-medical cannabis. The findings, released today by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), present a problem because all nurses are likely to interact with patients regarding recreational cannabis use.

The survey was developed to assess nurses’ knowledge of the health effects of recreational cannabis use and to provide Health Canada with guidance on how to prepare for a public education campaign before the expected legalization of cannabis next year. Nurses who were surveyed said they had knowledge gaps around the following areas:

  • cannabis use during pregnancy (36 per cent)
  • health risks associated with the various methods of cannabis consumption (27 per cent)
  • the impact of cannabis use on the developing brain (17 per cent)
  • the risk of addiction (15 per cent)
  • the risks associated with cannabis use and mental health (14 per cent)

These findings shed light on the need for the federal government to provide greater investments in nurses’ professional development and education regarding the risks and harms associated with cannabis use.

A recent Nanos survey [PDF, 1.1 MB] also revealed that more than nine in ten people in Canada support and expect nurses to be key sources of information about the risks and harms of recreational cannabis. Because nurses will clearly have a lead role in educating the public, CNA believes nurses must be involved in the design and delivery of federally funded public education campaigns.

We were pleased to see the federal health minister’s recent announcement of $36.4 million over five years (20 cents per capita per year) for a cannabis public education and awareness campaign, but experience in other jurisdictions suggests that a much greater investment is needed. As a comparison, in the U.S., Colorado allocated $7 million per year ($1.25 per capita per year) for a public education campaign.

In its 2018 pre-budget recommendations, CNA recommended $125 million over the next five years for public education. CNA also recommended ongoing funding of $2 million per year for a harm reduction-based cannabis awareness campaign targeting youth and adults. In light of recent poll findings, CNA also recommends the federal government make a one-time investment of $1.5 million to increase the level of cannabis education for nurses to support their role as key sources of public information.

“As the federal government moves to legalize cannabis, it is of the utmost importance to ensure nurses are well prepared to respond to the related health questions their patients will ask,” CNA president Barb Shellian said. “These survey results demonstrate a real need for more education to support health-care providers in this new Canadian public health reality.”

The following national health group supports CNA’s recommendation in its 2018 pre-budget submission to strengthen cannabis public health education for health providers.

Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada (NPAC)
In preparation for the legalization of cannabis in 2018, NPAC supports CNA’s recommendations to increase investment for a harm-reduction cannabis public education and awareness campaign and increase investment in cannabis education for nurse practitioners so that the safe use of recreational/non-medical cannabis can be supported in practice.



Survey of nurses on non-medical cannabis use [PDF, 471.6 KB]

Nanos survey of public on nurses’ role on non-medical cannabis education [PDF, 1.1 MB]

CNA’s 2018 pre-budget consultation [PDF, 181.6 KB]

The Canadian Nurses Association is the national professional voice representing over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Kevin Ménard
Communications Advisor
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca