MA Major Research Papers

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science


Anderson, Cameron


With the legalization and regulation of recreational cannabis in Canada coming into effect on October 17th, 2018, Canada became just the second country in the world to legalize the longstanding prohibited substance after first being outlawed in 1923. While public opinion throughout the country had favoured the adoption of drug-law reformation for some time, limited data existed on the health-related implications and public perceptions of cannabis use before the legislation was introduced. With little to no well-documented evidence available to base their own public policy decisions on, the federal government under newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada outlined several principal objectives when committing to legalizing, regulating and restricting access to cannabis in Canada. The federal government recognised the best tactic as being a public health approach which prioritized decision making for the new regulatory system based on features that should uphold and promote the health and safety of Canadians. This research paper seeks to reflect on the effectiveness of the outlined policy objectives through public opinion by analyzing changes in annual trends pertaining to cannabis associated risks and harms. Three key areas are discussed using data from the Canadian Cannabis Survey (2017-2020) including perceptions of cannabis as being habit forming; cannabis associated risks among other substances; and opinions of cannabis specific harms. This paper ultimately argues that increased exposure to mandatory health warnings and realized effects of cannabis use increased the negative perception of cannabis smoke as being harmful, young adults as being most at risk, and cannabis as being a habit-forming substance while reducing the negative perception of cannabis compared to other substances and its effects on mental health.