Cannabis Made Clear

Meet OCS’s 2023 Social Impact Fund Community Partnership Teams

Meet the partner groups for the OCS’s inaugural Social Impact Fund. The Social Impact Fund (the Fund) provides financial support for projects and research that align with one of the OCS’s three key pillars of social responsibility.

Social Impact Fund

As part of our commitment to prioritize a socially responsible cannabis industry, the OCS is proud to announce and formally launch the first partner projects selected to receive funding as part of our inaugural Social Impact Fund (the Fund).  

This year’s recipients include partners from the University of Calgary, the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation, McMaster University, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Cannabis Social Equity and Equality Development (S.E.E.D.) Initiative and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

What is the Social Impact Fund?

First introduced with a call for applications in April 2023, the Fund aims to build meaningful partnerships that bridge gaps in knowledge, create shared social value and mobilize positive change related to cannabis in Ontario and beyond. 

The Fund — part of the OCS’s suite of research, resources and programming available through the Good All Around social impact platform — provides financial support to programs, services and research undertaken by incorporated not-for-profits, registered charitable organizations and researchers affiliated with academic or research institutions.  

The selected partner projects and associated funding streams strategically align with the OCS’s three pillars of social responsibility: establishing a foundation for environmental sustainability, supporting a diverse and inclusive industry in Ontario, and advancing cannabis knowledge and promoting responsible consumption. 

We’re excited to introduce you to this year’s community partnership teams. Keep reading to learn more about them and the important work they’ll be doing over the next year. 

UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY

The Young Adult Digital Storytelling Cannabis Harm Reduction Project 

What are young adults’ experiences with cannabis? How do they think about the risks and benefits of using cannabis? What would they tell other young adults about reducing potential harms and staying safe? This project uses Digital Storytelling (DST) to engage young adults in creating messages about cannabis and harm reduction.

DST is a community engagement tool and research method used to explore people’s experiences of health and social issues on a deeper level. Participants create short (three- to five-minute) videos using still images, audio recordings, video and music. All content is chosen by the participant, who narrates the story in first person. Script writing is central to DST; a trained facilitator works with each participant to construct a story centered on a meaningful moment or experience.

In this project, the team will use DST to provide young adults with the tools to create messages about reducing cannabis harms, identifying those meaningful moments or shifts in experiences with cannabis that they feel are important to share. The aim is to share eight to 10 digital stories from perspectives across Canada, with an emphasis on participants in Ontario.

Meet the University of Calgary team

 DR. MIKE LANG

Dr. Mike Lang is a health researcher, filmmaker and Level 3 Common Language Digital Storytelling Facilitator. He founded and currently directs Common Language Digital Storytelling, a training organization for Digital Storytelling facilitation around the world. Connect with Dr. Lang on all socials @mikelangstories or @commonlanguagedst, and learn more at mikelangstories.com and commonlanguagedst.org.

 rebeccaDR. REBECCA HAINES-SAAH

Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah is a public health sociologist working at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary. Rebecca has over 20 years’ experience as a youth substance use researcher and is widely recognized for leadership and expertise in youth cannabis research. More information about Dr. Haines-Saah’s work is available online at rebeccasaah.com and rsaah.ucalgaryblogs.ca.

CENTRE ON DRUG POLICY EVALUATION

Towards a More Equitable Cannabis Industry in Ontario: Enabling an Inclusive, Diverse, and Vibrant Legal Market

In contrast to the disproportionately Black and Brown faces who were casualties of the war on drugs, Canada’s legal cannabis industry is overwhelmingly dominated by white faces. Canadian jurisdictions have not yet prioritized equity initiatives to support the inclusion of under-represented racial groups with a focus on people adversely affected by cannabis prohibition in employment and economic opportunities emerging from the legalization of cannabis. 

In response, the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation (CDPE) will develop a report offering actionable and evidence-informed strategic priorities and considerations to strengthen inclusion and diversity in Ontario’s cannabis industry.  

First, the report will provide an overview of the current state of diversity and inclusion in Ontario’s cannabis industry. This will be followed by a narrative review to examine approaches adopted to facilitate inclusion and diversity in the legal cannabis retail sector in other jurisdictions. Finally, the report will assess the suitability of these initiatives within the context of Ontario’s cannabis sector based on an in-house evaluation, as well as consultation with external experts. 

Meet the CDPE team

Team members contributing to the CDPE’s project supported by the OCS include Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah (Racial Equity Lead), Nazlee Maghsoudi (Manager, Policy Impact Unit) and Dr. Dan Werb (Executive Director). The CDPE is housed within the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto.

 DR. AKWASI OWUSU-BEMPAH

Racial Equity Lead

 

 NAZLEE MAGHSOUDI
Manager, Policy Impact Unit

 


 DR. DAN WERB
Executive Director

 

 

About the CDPE

The CDPE strives to support the development of evidence-, health- and human rights–based drug policies at local, national and international levels through research and outreach. In recent years, the CDPE has developed a growing portfolio of impactful work related to equity in Canada’s cannabis policy. 

Released with the University of Toronto in 2020, the CDPE’s foundational research examining the race and gender of Canadian cannabis industry leaders demonstrated that Black and Indigenous people, as well as women, are underrepresented among those with the greatest financial stake in Canada’s legal cannabis industry. The CDPE’s latest publication on equitable cannabis policy, titled, “A Roadmap for Cannabis Equity in Canada to Inform the Legislated Review of the Cannabis Act,” covers strengthening inclusion and diversity in Canada’s legal cannabis industry, amnesty for people with previous cannabis convictions, as well as reinvestment of cannabis taxes into equity programs.

 

MCMASTER UNIVERSITY

Wading Through The Weeds: Mobilizing a Trauma-Informed and Harm-Reduction Approach to Accessing Information and Support Regarding Cannabis Consumption During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Canadian research suggests that cannabis consumption during pregnancy has grown with the legalization of cannabis.    

The McMaster team aims to develop culturally responsive and accessible community-driven knowledge mobilization tools that will reduce barriers to and provide information and support for pregnant and lactating parents.    

By engaging people with lived experience, health and social service professionals and researchers to produce accessible and culturally relevant resources, the goal is to produce a short video that will explain in accessible language and animation what is currently known about the short- and long-term effects of cannabis during pregnancy and lactation.  

The video will further delve into reasons parents consume cannabis during pregnancy and lactation, harm reduction and culturally appropriate approaches to supporting parents who consume cannabis.    

The team will also develop a tool kit that promotes trauma- and harm reduction–informed approaches to support pregnant and lactating parents who consume cannabis and their health and social care providers.   

Meet the McMaster team

The McMaster team is made up of Black, Indigenous and settler academic and community-based researchers, and people with lived experience with intersecting identities.

 GABRIELLE GRIFFITH
Gabrielle Griffith is a queer, non-binary and neurodivergent individual advocating for inclusivity, holistic well-being and progressive research. They are a birth parent, a full-spectrum doula, an educator and a vocal cannabis consumer, promoting anti-oppressive, harm reduction and trauma-informed practices to support mental health and empower individuals and communities.

 DR. SAARA GREENE

Dr. Saara Greene has a long history of engaging in participatory arts-based research focusing on reproductive and maternal justice, and barriers to care. Dr. Greene has led research with women and cannabis since 2018, including the needs and experiences of mothers who consume cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

 BREKLYN BERTOZZI
Breklyn Bertozzi is a community researcher at Women’s College Hospital and a medical cannabis advocate. She brings 13 years of community-based research experience, including contributions to research on cannabis use during pregnancy and lactation.

 MARISA BLAKE

Marisa Blake is a Senior Project Officer on the Health Team at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) of mixed white settler and Ojibway ancestry. She has led several cannabis and health–related projects at NWAC.    

 DR. CHELSEA GABEL

Dr. Chelsea Gabel is a Red River Métis woman who is committed to community-based, participatory Métis health and well-being research. She has been working with Métis scholar and Canada Research Chair, Dr. Cindy Gaudet and NWAC to lead several cannabis-related projects.

 ROCHELLE MAURICE

Rochelle Maurice is a doctoral student in the School of Social Work. Her research aims to better understand Black parenting people’s experiences of consuming cannabis while breastfeeding.   

 MARY VACCARO

Mary Vaccaro is a lecturer in the School of Social Work and coordinator of a gender-specific Safer Drug Use Space at YWCA Hamilton. Her work is in harm reduction, pregnancy and reproductive justice.   

 

CANADIAN STUDENTS FOR SENSIBLE DRUG POLICY

Getting More Sensible! Ontario Expansion and PSA Series

With this project, Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) aims to expand the reach of its Get Sensible program in Ontario. CSSDP will do this by producing a series of short videos in the style of public service announcements (PSAs) to mobilize harm reduction information (pulled from Get Sensible’s Sensible Cannabis Education booklets) and model how to have healthy and effective conversations about cannabis. 

Leveraging Gen Z humour, combining elements of satire, irony and social commentary, the videos will subvert traditional PSA tropes to convey harm reduction messages promoting responsible consumption in ways that are engaging and entertaining. The video series, similar to much of CSSDP’s materials, will prioritize diverse representations of youth experiences and accessibility.  

Meet the CSSDP team

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy is a grassroots network of youth and students concerned about the negative impact drug policies have on individuals and communities. CSSDP considers drug use a health and human rights issue rather than a criminal or legal issue, and advocates for evidence-based responses to reduce and prevent harms associated with drug use and drug criminalization.  

 KIAH ELLIS-DURITY

 

 

 NOOR HADAD

 

 

 HUNTER TROMBLEY

 

 

 HEATH D'ALESSIO

 

 

 

About Get Sensible

Aligning with CSSDP’s mandate to support drug education efforts and building upon youth consultations on cannabis legalization and regulation conducted in Canada, the Sensible Cannabis Education tool kit and the Get Sensible campaign respond to calls for the development and dissemination of realistic and evidence-based cannabis education for youth.





 

THE CANNABIS SOCIAL EQUITY AND EQUALITY DEVELOPMENT (S.E.E.D.) INITIATIVE

Growing Opportunities: Cannabis Workforce Empowerment Program

The Cannabis Social Equity and Equality Development (S.E.E.D.) Initiative is dedicated to bridging the gap between community needs and the cannabis industry.  

The S.E.E.D. Initiative is committed to empowering Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) to thrive in the cannabis sector. Through skill development, education, training and mentorship, the group aims to unlock their potential. Our approach involves forging strategic partnerships with educational institutions, trade programs, industry leaders and licence holders. 

Meet Michael Athill, Director of S.E.E.D.

 MICHAEL ATHILL

Michael Athill was the co-founder of North America’s first 100 per cent Black-owned, federally licensed cannabis cultivation and processing facility. 

With the S.E.E.D. Initiative, Athill and partners are looking to catalyze transformative change within the cannabis industry, making it more inclusive, equitable and ultimately better for all. 

 

PRINCESS MARGARET CANCER CENTRE

Investigating an Association Between Lifetime Cannabis Exposure and Prostate Cancer Incidence

Prostate cancer is a significant public health concern, posing considerable mortality and morbidity risks among men. Presently, the causes of prostate cancer are not well understood, and there is a lack of robust evidence for specific risk or protective factors. Notably, cannabinoids have been implicated in the modulation of prostate cancer through CB1 and CB2 receptor activation. However, the long-term impact of cannabis use on prostate cancer development remains largely unexplored. 

This study seeks to address this research gap by investigating the association between lifetime cannabis use and prostate cancer incidence, leveraging a single-centre case-control study design. 

Meet the Princess Margaret team

The project team consists of a dynamic collaboration between Dr. Tara Rosewall, Ihtisham Ahmad and Ronald Chow. Together, they embody a synergistic blend of medical knowledge, research acumen and a commitment to community health, positioning the team to make meaningful contributions to health care.

 DR. TARA ROSEWALL

Dr. Tara Rosewall is a Clinician Investigator at the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Institute and an associate professor at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine. 

IHTISHAM AHMAD

Ihtisham Ahmad is currently a medical student at the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Life Sciences from McMaster University. 

RONALD CHOW

Ronald Chow studied epidemiology at Yale University, and biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto. 

 

About the Social Impact Fund

The Social Impact Fund is part of OCS’s suite of research, resources and programming available through its Good All Around social impact platform.

Long-term, OCS will continue investing in impactful community projects and research that support the cannabis industry and contribute positively to the Ontario public by establishing an annual call for Social Impact Fund applications.

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