• Ted Ohashi

Statistics Canada: 4.2 million Canadians use Cannabis

Statistics Canada with partners within Health Canada, Public Safety Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada developed this survey. These findings are important because they will form the baseline for analysis of the impact of cannabis legalization moving forward. Here are the key findings to date. The statistics reported in the first quarter report are marked Q1 and the second quarter findings are marked Q2.

  • Q1: Nationally, about 4.2 million or 14% of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported some use of cannabis products for medical or non-medical use while 56% indicated some use of cannabis "daily" or "weekly."

  • Q1: 79% of Canadians said they would not be more likely to try or to increase their cannabis consumption because of legalization. Of Canadians who did not use cannabis in the past three months, 6% said they would likely try cannabis or increase their consumption while 24% of current cannabis users said they would likely increase consumption after legalization.

  • Q1: over 25% of Canadians aged 25 to 34 report some use in the past three months; 14% of Canadians aged 15 and older have used some form of cannabis in the past three months.

  • Q1: The following graph shows cannabis use by province.

  • Q1: Among those who used cannabis in the past three months, almost 40% used it daily, while 30% used it only "once or twice;" 17% used it weekly; 14% monthly.

  • Q1: The following chart shows the reported use by age. Cannabis use over the past three months was 16% males and 12% females.

  • Q1: the following chart shows use by type of product.

  • Q1: the following chart shows where people access cannabis. 72% report getting it from one source. With legalization, half said they would change their source of supply.

  • Q1: Among the cannabis users with a valid driver's licence, 14% had driven within two hours of use; this increased to 23% for drivers who were daily or weekly consumers.

  • Q1: 33% of cannabis users said they did not spend any money on cannabis; over 33% said they spent more than $100 on cannabis in the past three months; almost 25% spent over $250.>

  • Q1&Q2 combined: 14% of cannabis users with a driver's licence drove within two hours of using with men almost twice as likely as women; 27% of daily users compared with 6% of less frequent users.

  • Q2: 5% of Canadians aged 15 years or older were passengers in vehicles operated by potentially impaired drivers. The ratio was approximately equal by gender but Canadians aged 15 to 24 were more than twice as likely as people aged 25 or older.

  • Q2: Among current cannabis users, 25% rode in a vehicle with a driver who had consumed, compared with 2% of non-cannabis users; 33% of people who had driven a vehicle within two hours of using cannabis reported being passengers in vehicles operated by other drivers who had so consumed.

  • Q2: Close to 16% of Canadians aged 15 years or older reported using cannabis in the prior three-month period. That was similar to the finding in the first quarter.

  • Q2: Nova Scotians (21%) and Ontarians (18%) used cannabis in the previous three months which was above average. Use was also above average in the territorial capitals: Whitehorse (23%), Yellowknife (27%) and Iqaluit (33%). Use was below average in Quebec (11%) and Saskatchewan (10%).

  • Q2: 19% of males and 12% of females reported using cannabis. Use decreases with age with use among 15 to 24-year-olds at 33% compares with 13% for those 25 or older. This might explain the territorial usage rates as the age in territorial capitals is much lower.

  • Q2: As in the first quarter, dried flower/leaf was the most popular (86%), followed by edibles (32%). Other popular products, each used by one-fifth of cannabis consumers, included hashish and kief (20%), liquid concentrates (20%) and vape pens with cannabis oil cartridges (19%).

  • Q2: The use of dried flower/leaf was reported by 90% of males and 81% of females, while 26% of males reported using edibles compared with 41% of females as summarized in the chart.

  • Q2: 33% of cannabis users reported spending nothing on the cannabis consumed, while 25% spent up to $100, 21% spent up to $250, and 21% spent more than $250. This is unchanged from Q1.

  • The frequency of cannabis use was associated with amount spent. Among infrequent users (once or twice in three months) over 60% had spent nothing while nearly half of daily or almost daily users reported spending in excess of $250, and another 30% reported spending between $100 and $250.

  • 82% of Canadians said they would be unlikely to try cannabis or to increase their consumption with legalization. (79% in Q1) However, 28% of current users indicated that they would be likely to increase their use after legalization compared with 6% of those not currently using.

These statistics will form the baseline to measure cannabis use and impacts on Canadian society before and after legalization and are therefore important in tracking the changes in consumer habits that arise due to legalization. The major drawback to the survey is the information is self-reported and has not been validated. The data may be skewed in either direction because social pressures might result in younger people overstating their cannabis consumption while other people might report no consumption because of the fear of legal consequences. Statistics Canada is internationally recognized as a data gathering and reporting organization and we can be confident the data is accurate within the limits described. Still it would have improved the optics of the results if an independent agency had been used to conduct the survey. There will be one more survey prior to legalization.

The data confirms many trends that are already recognized in the cannabis industry such as the need for a roadside “breathalyzer”-type test for cannabis, the need to close illegal growers and dispensaries. It also tends to confirm the broadly based usage of cannabis the supports the promise of a large market for recreational cannabis post legalization.

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