Canada is the second country in the world to legalize cannabis for non-medical use. This decision offers researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the impacts of cannabis use in a legalized environment — including its effects on mental health. To seize that opportunity, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) was allocated $10 million over five years in the 2018 federal budget to investigate the risks and benefits of cannabis as well as the varying needs of diverse subpopulations of people living in Canada.
In 2019, an MHCC-commissioned environmental scan and scoping review, carried out by a research team at the University of Calgary, synthesized the existing research on the complex relationship between cannabis and mental health and summarized gaps and opportunities for future research.
MHCC research investments in cannabis and mental health
In partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
Grants meant to build research capacity and inform the development of future, larger scale research projects in cannabis and mental health:
Five-year grants to enable teams across Canada to investigate the potential harms and benefits of cannabis, the social determinants of health, and the needs of diverse populations experiencing cannabis use disorder and/or mental illness.
Grants to explore the relationship between mental health and cannabis use:
- 2020 (total investment = $4,698,118)
In July 2019, the MHCC gathered a diverse group of experts, including people with lived experience of substance use and/or mental health problems and illnesses, service providers, family members, community-based researchers, and policy makers, to discuss research priorities for community-based research on cannabis and mental health. Our Shaping Future Investments in Community-Based Research on Cannabis and Mental Health report gives a concise account of the day’s discussions as well as key takeaways.
Building upon the recommendations from the Environmental Scan and Scoping Review and community-based forums, the MHCC launched a request for community-based research proposals on cannabis and mental health in February 2020.
In response to this request, the MHCC is funding 14 two-year projects that will be community led, culturally safe, focused on equity, and centred on lived and living experience. These innovative projects from across the country will address knowledge gaps in the relationship between cannabis and mental health for priority populations. These include
- people with lived and living experience of cannabis use and/or mental health problems or illnesses
- First Nations and Métis communities
- older adults
- immigrant, refugee, ethnocultural, and racialized populations
- people who identify as two spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer
- communities who experience layers of oppression.
Roundtable and conference summary reports
Inuit Forum on Cannabis and Mental Health Report - on the October 2019 meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador — an event that marked the first opportunity for Inuit across Inuit Nunangat to come together to discuss cannabis. The forum was organized by representatives from the Nunatsiavut Department of Health and Social Development, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. A Summary Report of the Forum is also available.