P.A. cannabis expert says marijuana survey not ideal

By Taylor MacPherson
September 29, 2017 - 8:00am Updated: September 29, 2017 - 1:15pm

A Prince Albert cannabis consultant said the Saskatchewan Government’s ongoing marijuana survey could easily be manipulated and ignores the issues facing medical users of the drug.

In an effort to generate public input on the upcoming legalization of marijuana, the Saskatchewan Government launched an online survey Sept. 8 and invited the public to participate until Oct. 6. According to the government the survey is open to all Saskatchewan residents over 18 and will “provide valuable information that will help guide the development of Saskatchewan’s legalization framework.”

Jamie Novotny, a Prince Albert medical cannabis consultant with Nuvomedic Canna Consulting Ltd., said he believes the survey ignores some crucial issues and does nothing to protect the results from manipulation. Although the survey was designed for Saskatchewan residents, he said anyone in the world can easily participate.

“I guarantee that’s happening, and that will skew their numbers,” Novotny told paNOW. “I question it, absolutely.”

Although he feels it’s unlikely an anti-marijuana group would deliberately try to influence the results, Novotny said it would be nearly impossible to prevent individuals from giving untrue answers.

The content of the survey is not problematic when it comes to recreational use, Novotny said, but it makes no allowances for users of medical cannabis. Medical patients will want to acquire their medicine through the provincial framework too, he said, but so far nobody has indicated whether or not that will be possible.

“Everything has been mainly focused on the recreational side of things,” he said. “We have problems with the medical side.”

Novotny, who uses medical cannabis to treat multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease, said he worries legalization will create a two-tiered system where recreational users will have easy access but medical patients will still have to use the existing federal system. Many of the patients he works with struggle to acquire the medicine they require, he said, and the provincial focus on recreational use leaves them uncertain about whether their situation will improve after legalization.

If the government wants the best and most accurate information on cannabis, Novotny said the best thing they can do is listen to the experts. He said he has reached out to the province to offer his assistance, but they have not returned his messages.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Noel Busse told paNOW the survey was not restricted by region in order to allow Saskatchewan residents to participate even while they are outside of the province. The survey also allows multiple submissions from the same IP address, he said, as some may wish to fill it out from a work computer or at a public library.

The province is relying primarily on the honour system to ensure the responses are accurate, Busse said, but they are reviewing the results and removing responses that “appear illegitimate or suspiciously repetitive.”

Busse said the survey is just one tool the government is using to gather information, but also emphasized that they are working under a fast-approaching deadline.

“Government is interested in hearing what the people of Saskatchewan think on this important issue, and the survey is one component of ongoing consultations,” Busse said. “We are working hard to consult with stakeholders and the Saskatchewan public within the tight timeline provided by the federal government.”


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