We're going to alternate.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee.
My name is Michelle Suarly, and I am representing the Ontario Public Health Association in my capacity as chair of the task group for cannabis. I am pleased to be joined by my colleague, Elena Hasheminejad, who is a member of the task group.
The Ontario Public Health Association, or OPHA, is a non-profit, non-partisan association that brings together those from the public and community health, academic, voluntary, and private sectors who are committed to improving people's health. Many of our members, whether they are public heath nurses like us or from other fields, are working on the front lines to promote and improve public health in their communities.
OPHA has been championing prevention, health promotion, and protection since its creation over 68 years ago. Our mission is to provide leadership on issues affecting the public's health and strengthening the impact of people who are active in public and community health throughout Ontario.
Our task group encourages the federal government to adopt a public health approach to cannabis regulation to allow for more control over the risk factors associated with cannabis-related harms. Based on evidence that the risks of cannabis are higher with early age of initiation and/or high frequency of use, a public health approach would aim to delay the age of initiation of cannabis use, reduce the frequency of use, reduce higher-risk use, reduce problematic use and dependence, expand access to treatment and prevention programs, and ensure early and sustained public education and awareness.
We advocate that the federal government apply the health equity lens and recognize the role played by the social determinants of health, understand those who are most likely to be affected by the legalization of recreational cannabis, and support corresponding strategies to mitigate impacts.
Elena will now highlight OPHA's recommendations.