Cannabis campaign focuses on harm-reduction tools for Inuit

Project aims to help Inuit communities better understand cannabis use

A campaign launched on Nov. 29 by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada hopes to help Inuit increase Inuit knowledge about cannabis use and how to reduce possible harms. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

By Madalyn Howitt

A new Inuit-focused campaign is sharing information about cannabis use in an effort to educate users and reduce possible harms.  

Launched on Nov. 29, Let’s Talk about Ujarak: A Cannabis Harm Reduction Toolkit is part of a larger project funded by Health Canada that aims to help Inuit youth and families better understand the potential impacts of cannabis use. 

The campaign is spearheaded by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, the national representative organization of Inuit women in the country.

Rebecca Kudloo, president of Pauktuutit, said in an email to Nunatsiaq News the campaign aims to reach Inuit who use cannabis or are interested in trying it so they can do so “in a way that reduces risks and potential harms.” 

“There are many reasons why Inuit choose to use cannabis, and harm reduction is about making sure Inuit have the information they need to make safe and informed choices for themselves,” Kudloo said. 

The toolkit includes fact sheets, a discussion guide, posters and tools for self-reflection on cannabis use habits. Pauktuutit’s Cannabis Project Advisory Committee, which is made up of Inuit representatives from across Canada, worked with Inuit youth to develop messaging for the campaign, Kudloo said. It’s available in English, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun from the campaign’s website. 

The campaign’s approach is meant to de-stigmatize and empower Inuit who use cannabis, Kudloo said, rather than promoting abstinence or prevention. Social stigma about drugs can be a barrier to having open conversations about cannabis use, she added. 

“Problematic cannabis use is often linked to mental health challenges and trauma, and a harm reduction approach works to acknowledge and address underlying mental health and trauma in order to promote healing,” she said.

Kudloo said the idea of a campaign guided by Inuit values emerged after Pauktuutit looked at reports on cannabis use in Inuit communities and among southern Inuit, but found very little distinction-based and evidence-based cannabis information was available.  

“We learned that Inuit cannabis use is common, but awareness of the risks is low,” Kudloo said. 

Discussions between Pauktuutit and community members also revealed that public health campaigns often group Inuit all together or target just one region in Inuit Nunangat, instead of including all Inuit and all their diversities.

“There is a wide range of beliefs and attitudes towards cannabis amongst Inuit,” said Kudloo.

“Inuit need cannabis education and information that is aligned with their unique experiences and beliefs and that respects the diversity of experiences of cannabis use.” 

To help structure the campaign, Pauktuutit researched knowledge, attitudes and behaviours among Inuit towards cannabis use by conducting interviews with nearly 100 research participants representing each of the Inuit Nunangat regions and southern centres, Kudloo said. 

The campaign is expected to run until March 2023, but Kudloo said Pauktuutit hopes to continue helping service providers create tools and resources to educate themselves on how best to serve Inuit, “rather than putting the responsibility on Inuit to continue navigating complex health systems.” 

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by Truestory on

    They should have done this BEFORE the marijuana was legalized.

  2. Posted by Colin on

    Among my relatively small circle of friends and acquaintances, I know three people who were quite heavy users in the teens and early twenties. They fried their brains so badly that they cannot lead anything like a normal life. One of them is Inuit. Cannabis may not directly cause schizophrenia. But there’s no doubt in my mind that cannabis can set it off in those already having a disposition toward it. As with smoking that sets off cancer in some people but not in others.

    • Posted by dave on

      Cannabis may not directly cause schizophrenia
      You are correct.

      Cannabis makes the symptoms worse and is the worst thing for anyone to use who has mental health issues is cannabis.

  3. Posted by The three on

    These are the three worst things to happen to Nunavut:

    1) Colonialism
    2) Social Media and Internet
    3) Legal Cannabis and Alcohol access

    • Posted by Aqqaqa on

      You may blame these things but, try living without them in today’s age.

      Our own Inuit politicians and Inuit students want better internet access to the North. Social media is a great tool if you know how to use it properly.

      We wouldn’t survive today without the government we have and the funding they provide. Sucks to say it but, try kicking out all of the “colonizers” (and their funding) today or next year or whenever and see what happens to your health care, police, water, electricity, education system, etc. You can’t have your cake an eat it too in this situation.

      I do agree with your point on access to alcohol and cannabis but, on the flip side, restricting it more would just foster boot legging.

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