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From left: Joan Donaldson, Brittany Pothier and Michaela Smith at the Tri-County Women’s Centre in Yarmouth, where the local area’s Rural Truth Matters Cannabis Education & Substance User Support Program is based. Donaldson is program co-ordinator for the initiative. Pothier and Smith are project navigators. (Courtney Franzen, not pictured, also is a project navigator.)
From left: Joan Donaldson, Brittany Pothier and Michaela Smith at the Tri-County Women’s Centre in Yarmouth, where the local area’s Rural Truth Matters Cannabis Education & Substance User Support Program is based. Donaldson is program co-ordinator for the initiative. Pothier and Smith are project navigators. (Courtney Franzen, not pictured, also is a project navigator.) - Eric Bourque

Organizers of an upcoming cannabis education event in Yarmouth have lined up speakers who will address various topics related to the drug, including medical and legal issues.

It will take place at the Mariners Centre, in the community room, Thursday, Jan. 24, with the event scheduled to go from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This is for stakeholders, including people from agencies and organizations who have an interest in cannabis education and supporting those who struggle with substance use.

As of Jan. 8, about 50 people were expected to attend the event, said Joan Donaldson, program co-ordinator for the Tri-County Women’s Centre’s cannabis education and substance user support project.

While organizers were hoping to get more people to come out on Jan. 24, Donaldson reiterated that this event is for stakeholders.

“We’re going to be doing community forums after this that will be open to the general public,” she said.

Scheduled speakers for Jan. 24 include Dr. Heather Durdle, who will speak on “Youth and cannabis: what you need to know” and “How to engage youth in a conversation about substances,” Dr. Phil Tibbo, who will speak on “Cannabis and early onset psychosis,” and Jeff Chartrand of the RCMP, who will talk about cannabis and the law.

Donaldson said she’s seeing more and more that cannabis-related education is required, that there is stigmatization around the issue.

“There is a need for us to be going out and educating people so that they can make an informed choice,” she said. “This is not about stigmatizing people who use. It’s about giving people proper information and to reduce as much harm as we possibly can.”

Regardless of the substance – whether it’s cannabis or perhaps alcohol – Donaldson says the question is why people may be using substances to cope with life or to soothe themselves rather than using healthier outlets like exercise or yoga or meditation.

“It’s more (a question of) ‘why are you using’ than ‘what are you using?’”

There also seems to be some confusion, she said, about recreational versus medicinal cannabis.

Federal funding for the Tri-County Women’s Centre’s cannabis education and substance user support program was announced last October. Ottawa said it was planning to invest $967,000 in the initiative over four years.

Three project navigators are working under Donaldson on this initiative.

Lisanne Turner, executive director of the Tri-County Women’s Centre, encourages stakeholders to attend the Jan. 24 event.

Referring more generally to the importance of cannabis education and support, Turner said, “Like Joan (Donaldson) was talking about de-stigmatizing things, so if legalization (of cannabis) de-stigmatizes the drug, it also hopefully de-stigmatizes help-seeking on drugs, so if somebody is looking for help, they don’t have to do it covertly.”

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