Cannabis in Canada: Exploring This New Reality

by M-J Milloy, Scott Bernstein and Stephanie Lake

June 03, 2019

Event Type



June 03, 2019 at 6:00-7:30pm


SFU Surrey Campus, Room 2600 (Westminster Savings Lecture Theatre),
250-13450 102 Avenue, Surrey, BC

Last October, Canada became the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis for non-medical adult use. While cannabis use may be growing, there are still many myths and misperceptions.

Join M-J Milloy (Research Scientist at the BC Centre on Substance Use), Scott Bernstein (Director of Policy at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition), and Stephanie Lake (Doctoral Candidate at the BC Centre on Substance Use) as we discuss:

  • What does legalization mean for Canadians?
  • Can cannabis play a role in addressing the overdose crisis?
  • Realistic and evidence-based cannabis education for youth

Moderated by: Donald MacPherson (Director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences) and Will Small (Director of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health & Addiction (CARMHA) and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences)

Doors Open: 5:30pm
Lecture and Q&A: 6:00-7:30pm
Catered Reception: 7:30pm onwards

This public lecture is organized by SFU's Faculty of Health Sciences and funded through an endowment provided by the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society.

Speaker summaries and bios:

M-J Milloy


Canada’s recent legalization of cannabis occurred within the context of the ongoing and uncontrolled overdose crisis, the country’s gravest public health catastrophe in decades. Preliminary data from the United States and other settings suggests cannabis might have a beneficial role to play in addressing the overdose crisis. Dr. Milloy will discuss these findings as well as studies from people at high risk of overdose in Vancouver showing positive associations between cannabis use and lower risk of experiencing drug-related harms. 



M-J Milloy, PhD, is a Research Scientist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC). On January 1, 2019, he began his appointment as UBC’s inaugural Canopy Growth Professor of Cannabis Science, a position created by arms’ length gifts to the university from Canopy Growth, one of the world’s largest producers of legal cannabis, and the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. At the BCCSU, Dr. Milloy leads observational and experimental research into the public health impact of cannabis regulation and the therapeutic applications of cannabis and cannabinoids, especially for people living with HIV or substance use disorders or at risk of overdose.

Dr. Milloy is the principal investigator of the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS) study, a prospective cohort of people living with HIV who use illicit drugs. The ACCESS study is comprised of more than 1,100 individuals living with HIV/AIDS who use illicit drugs. He has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed articles on topics that include the impacts of homelessness and incarceration on HIV treatment outcomes; patterns of non-fatal and fatal overdose; and the impact of Insite, North America’s first medically supervised injecting facility. In 2011, he co-authored a study in The Lancet showing that the establishment of Insite, Vancouver’s first supervised injection facility, preceded a 35% decline in rates of fatal overdose in the vicinity of the low-barrier harm reduction facility compared to 9% in the rest of the City of Vancouver.

Dr. Milloy has won several awards of merit, including the 2011 Bisby Fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Most recently, Natural Green BioMed, Ltd., a private firm applying for a license to produce cannabis, pledged $1-million to UBC to study the therapeutic effects of cannabis and its potential to treat HIV.


Scott Bernstein


With a large number of Canadians consuming cannabis and increasing calls for policy change, last October saw Canada become the second nation in the world to legalize cannabis for non-medical adult use. Still, there are many myths and misperceptions about cannabis and what legalization means for Canadians. Scott Bernstein, Senior Policy Analyst at Canadian Drug Policy Coalition will address this important policy development, including a brief history of the prohibition of cannabis, why cannabis was legalized, how legalization was done, and what kinds of outcomes we can expect going forward.



Scott Bernstein is Director of Policy with the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition based in Simon Fraser University, where he leads the organization’s work on legal regulation of drugs. Through his own legal practice and with Vancouver-based non-profit Pivot Legal Society, Scott has participated in strategic litigation focused on advancing human rights of people who use drugs, including challenging municipal anti-harm reduction bylaws, advocating for access to prescription heroin treatment, and defending Insite, North America’s first sanctioned injection site in the Supreme Court of Canada and lower courts. Prior to joining CDPC, Scott was a program officer with the Global Drug Policy Program of Open Society Foundations in New York. There, he supported collaboration within a global reform movement targeted at the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session through grant-making, policy expertise and strategic planning, as well as supporting a nascent drug policy reform movement in Africa.  Scott has a MS in environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin and a JD from the University of British Columbia.


Stephanie Lake


Stephanie will present an overview of the ’Sensible Cannabis Education Toolkit’, an evidence-based educational resource on cannabis for young people, developed by Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy. 



Stephanie is a Doctoral Candidate in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia, where she holds scholarships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation. Her doctoral project explores the implications of cannabis use for a range of health outcomes including opioid use, overdose, and clinical management of HIV among people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver. Stephanie has several peer-reviewed publications in leading scientific journals in her field including The International Journal of Drug Policy and Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and is a frequent commentator on cannabis legalization and public health in Canadian media. Since 2016, she has served on the national Board of Directors for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) and as President of its UBC chapter. She co-authored CSSDP’s Sensible Cannabis Education Toolkit, which has received widespread recognition as a pragmatic and evidence-based cannabis resource for young Canadians and their educators.