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“What has Changed Since Cannabis was Legalized”

You should read “What has changed since cannabis was legalized”
on Stats Can


With the coronavirus, Trump’s impeachment, and even a few Canadian scandals being widely covered by the media earlier this year, we may not have noticed Michelle Rotermann’s excellent article entitled: “What has changed since cannabis was legalized” published on the Statistics Canada website. 

Her article confirmed that, indeed, cannabis is one of the most widely used substances in Canada with nearly half of us reporting having used it at some time in our lives.

Then she painstakingly takes us through a reporting process in her insightful article that provides Canadians with a very interesting snapshot of what we’ve been up to in the year since legalization of cannabis for recreational use, how it compares to the year prior to that, and where we seem to be headed, concluding with a fascinating discussion of her findings.

She gently reminds us that it was not a simple matter to just legalize cannabis, but there were so many other considerations as well to safeguard Canadians health and safety.

It makes for great reading in its entirety but for those with a little less time on their hands, here are a few of the salient facts from Michelle Rotermann’s article, which has been abundantly and freely quoted from, with liberal repeating of her statistical text. 

  • By 2019 more than 5.1 million (16.8%) Canadians aged 15 or older, reported using cannabis in the three months prior to being surveyed. This number was higher than the 4.5 million (14.9%) of Canadians who reported use prior to legalization.
  • A third of Canadians in the 18- to 24-year-old bracket in 2019 reported consuming cannabis in the previous three months, a level unchanged from before legalization
  • Cannabis consumption continues to be higher among males than females.
  • Between 2018 and 2019 cannabis use increased, particularly among persons aged 25 and older (13.1% to 15.5%) and among males (17.5% to 20.3%).
  • Usage rates for 15- to 24-year-olds were constant, but use among 15- to 17-year-olds declined.
  • In 2019, approximately:
    25.7% of residents of Nova Scotia
    21.1% of residents of Newfoundland and Labrador
    20.3% of residents of New Brunswick
    19.3% of residents of Alberta
    19.1% of residents of British Columbia
    reported using cannabis in the previous three months.
  • At 11.8%, Quebec residents maintained a lower-than average use.
  • On average, in 2019, 6.0% of Canadians aged 15 or older reported using cannabis daily or almost daily; about the same level as 2018.
  • Regardless of year, daily or almost daily users are more likely to be male and aged 18 to 44.
  • Persons 65 and older continued to be the least likely to consume cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis but the only population since legalization for whom daily use has increased.
  • In 2019, 13.2% of cannabis users with a valid driver’s license reported driving within two hours of using cannabis—unchanged from 2018.
  • Males were more likely to engage in this behaviour than females (15.6% compared to 9.4%).
  • The proportion who reported driving within two hours was also more than five times higher among drivers who reported daily or almost daily cannabis use. By contrast, driving within two hours of using varied little across the country or age groups either before or after legalization.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, the percentage of Canadians aged 15 years or older who were passengers in vehicles driven by drivers who had consumed cannabis within the previous two hours dropped to 4.2% from 5.3%. Reductions in this behaviour were limited to three provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador 3.6%, Alberta 3.9%, and Ontario 3.7%).
  • This behaviour remained more common among 18- to 24-year-olds (11.9%) than it was for both younger and older Canadians.
  • Riding with a driver who had consumed was common among passengers who also used cannabis themselves.
  • An estimated 29.4% of cannabis users reported obtaining all of the cannabis they consumed from a legal source; nearly three times higher than before legalization (10.7%).
  • Many consumers obtained cannabis from multiple sources; when all those who reported getting at least some of their cannabis from a legal source are combined, the percentage of consumers accessing cannabis legally increased to 52.0% in 2019.
  • Prior to legalization, reports of having obtained cannabis legally were more limited (22.7%) but also likely overstated given that only use for medical purposes was legal and restricted to Health Canada’s ACMPR program.
  • Getting cannabis from other sources remained a common practice for Canadians in 2019— but less so than before legalization.
  • In 2019 about 4 in 10 consumers reported having obtained cannabis from an illegal supplier (40.1%) or to have obtained it from friends and family (37.8%). The corresponding 2018 estimates were significantly higher (51.7% and 48.5%).
  • Growing cannabis was a supply-source for 9.9% of consumers, and 3.2% reported another (unspecified) source—both unchanged from 2018.
  • Due partly to variations in accessibility, i.e., proximity to bricks and mortar stores, residents of regions report differently. In 2019 higher percentages of the Atlantic region, including Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta consumers, as well as Quebec (58.0%) and Manitoba (59.3%), reported obtaining at least some of their cannabis legally, above the rest of Canada, whereas residents of B.C. and Ontario reported lower-than-average-acquisition of cannabis from legal sources (36.6% and 47.3%). Regional differences could be explained by other factors.
  • The regions where cannabis is purchased also tends to differ by the amount spent. It takes many more small buys to accumulate the same amount of one ‘big spender,’ monitoring changes in source by spending category is another way to quantify progress made on eliminating (or substantially reducing) the cannabis black market.
  • Legalization changed little for the one-quarter of cannabis consumers who reported never paying for the cannabis they used, (69.8% in 2019 and 77.1% in 2018) the majority of those who reported not paying, continued to report that they got or shared cannabis with family and friends.
  • The highest spenders (more than $250 over three months), account for about one-fifth of consumers with more reporting that they obtained at least some cannabis from legal sources in 2019 than previously (59.4% compared to 39.3% in 2018).
  • Use of illegal cannabis by the highest spenders decreased (from 70.1% in 2018 to 62.0% in 2019).
  • Reported use of cannabis shared with friends and family remained unchanged (29.0% in 2019 versus 28.4% in 2018).
  • Among cannabis consumers who spent $1-to-$250 (over three months), the proportions obtaining cannabis legally (exclusively or at least sometimes) increased from 2018 to 2019 while those using illegal sources, as well as reports of obtaining cannabis from friends and family dropped.
  • There is a growing consensus that cannabis use can harm adolescent brains and that initiated at a younger age increases the likelihood of developing problem cannabis use. Indications from this government of Canada study suggest use among Canadian youth has not increased.
  • The policies governing cannabis production, distribution, sale, and consumption continue to evolve.

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