Mental Health Commission of Canada Partners on $2 Million Investment to Address Research Gaps in Relationship Between Cannabis and Mental Health

Published: July 15, 2021

Mental Health Commission of Canada Partners on $2 Million Investment to Address Research Gaps in Relationship Between Cannabis and Mental Health

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and its partners are pleased to announce the investment of $2 million toward targeted research on the mental health effects of cannabis use among diverse populations in Canada. This joint investment with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Consortium for Early Intervention in Psychosis (CCEIP), the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation, and Veterans Affairs Canada, will fund a total of 18 research projects covering a wide range of subpopulations that are under-represented in current research.

“To gain a clear understanding of the mental health impacts of cannabis use in Canada, we must include representation from all areas of the population — particularly from those communities who are frequently overlooked in research,” said MHCC president and CEO Michel Rodrigue. “With these new projects, we hope to help answer important questions in the existing research and inform the development of future larger-scale projects.”

The groups included in the 18 innovative projects cover a broad spectrum, including racialized and Indigenous communities, individuals experiencing mental illness (such as schizophrenia and psychosis, PTSD, and depression), 2SLGBTQ+ communities, and Veterans.

“Research projects like these are absolutely vital as we work to improve the supports and programs we provide to those who’ve served our country,” said Lawrence MacAulay, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence. “We’ll be able to make better decisions by exploring the impact of cannabis on areas like PTSD or the mental health and quality of life of our Veterans, and Veterans Affairs Canada is proud to be providing funding as a partner in this important research.”

Research gaps the new evidence will address include the impacts of cannabis use for individuals with a history of trauma, cannabis use among individuals with substance use disorders who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, and improved pathways to care for young people in racialized communities with emerging psychosis.

“Since the legalization of cannabis, many serious questions remain as to the potential harm of cannabis use on a person’s mental health,” said Chris Summerville, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada Foundation. “Sufficient research has indicated a link between cannabis and psychosis, and it is important to continue growing the knowledge base to help people in Canada make informed decisions about cannabis use.”

Nicola Otter, executive director of CCEIP, and Dr. Phil Tibbo, president of CCEIP agreed, adding that their organization “is extremely pleased to support a research project that will further the understanding of youth perceptions on cannabis use and its link to psychosis, with an emphasis on racialized and Indigenous populations.”

“This important research will identify knowledge gaps, strengthen the evidence base, and inform future projects and policy,” said Dr. Samuel Weiss, scientific director at the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. “These research teams will accomplish this in partnership with people who use cannabis — ensuring that people with lived and living experience of cannabis use are meaningfully involved in all phases and stages, including research design, execution, knowledge translation and dissemination, and evaluation.”

Taken together, these projects will help build a more inclusive evidence base that doesn’t only account for diversity, but embraces it.