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Cannabis and Mental Health in Marginalized Populations

Evidence shows, compared to the general population, mental illness disproportionately affects people who inject or use drugs, smoke, 2SLGBTQ+, those who experienced childhood traumas, immigrants, people who identify as Indigenous, and homeless populations & those at risk for homelessness. Even though recreational marijuana is legal in Canada, it might not be accessible or affordable for the vulnerable populations. Thus, they might resort to unsafe means to obtain it, which may provide them with marijuana that is contaminated with other fatal illicit drugs.  

Moreover, research has shown that there is an association between marijuana use and mental illnesses.  But it is unknown if marijuana is what is likely triggering the mental illness or if people with mental illness happen to use marijuana to self-medicate their mental illness symptoms (i.e., what came first, chicken or the egg situation).  

To understand the relationship between the use of marijuana and mental illness. We will interview people from those marginalized populations living with mental illness and who have presently or in the past used marijuana.   

The study will collaborate with the Bridge Engagement Centre (The BRIDGE). Marginalized populations who are the at core of the Bridge Research center will be invited to take part in this study. These individuals may be part of the street-involved (people who use drugs, sex workers and people who sell and buy street level drugs and involved in the justice system), homeless or at-risk for homelessness, and racialized communities. The study will only include those (1) currently living with a mental illness (including: post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, or experiencing more the one mental health condition including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and those with (2) current or past history of marijuana use; and they must have the (3) ability to read and speak English. 

Members of the Bridge will be engaged in all parts of this research project. From this study, we hope to understand why marginalized populations use or avoid marijuana, which help us increase our understanding into the patterns of marijuana use and its effects on the mental health of Ottawa’s marginalized populations. 

 This project is ongoing