Canadians are consuming cannabis after nationwide legalization at roughly the same rates as before, according to Statistics Canada's quarterly survey released in early February 2019.
About 15 percent of Canadians ages 15 and older, or roughly 4.6 million, reported consuming cannabis in the past three months during the survey tallied in a one-month period from mid-November to mid-December 2018. Canada legalized adult-use cannabis nationwide Oct. 17, 2018, becoming the second nation in the world (Uruguay was the first) to do so.
The mid-November to mid-December 2018 results were unchanged from a pre-legalization survey conducted from mid-August to mid-September 2018. That survey reported the 15 percent usage rate was constant throughout 2018. Here are some of the other findings from the survey.
1) 1 in 5 People Believe They'll Use Cannabis in the Next 3 Months
While 15 percent of Canadians reported consuming cannabis in the past three months, 19 percent of Canadians think they will use cannabis in the next three months, at the time of responses in the mid-November to mid-December 2018 period.
Current consumers, as well as those who have previously used cannabis, were more likely to report use in the upcoming months. But perhaps the most interesting finding was that 98 percent who have never consumed cannabis said they did not plan to consume.
Three in ten Canadians reported prior cannabis use but no longer consume, and 55 percent indicated that they have never used cannabis.
As with previous findings, consumption rates were higher among men than women, 19 percent versus 11 percent, respectively.
Cannabis use trended younger: 18- to 24-year-old reported the highest rates of use, while the average age of use was 38.
2) Seniors Make Up Much of the Medical Market
Medical consumers with medical documentation were 50 years old on average, according to the survey.
“Seniors are the new flavor of cannabis consumers,” Terry Roycroft, founder and president of The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. (MCRCI), told Weedmaps News over the phone. The Medicinal Cannabis Resource Centre Inc. MCRCI is an organization that assists patients in obtaining cannabis legally such as connecting them with licensed producers.
“When I go to seminars [at senior centers] and ask who has had experience with cannabis, at least half the hands go up because of previous use or their kids trying to get them onto it now so that they don't have to deal with heavy duty narcotics,” Roycroft said.
Not surprisingly, medical consumers are more likely to report daily consumption than non-medical consumers.
3) Purchases are Mostly Legal
According to the NCS, 86 percent of medical consumers with documentation purchased cannabis through legal channels, compared with 47 percent of medical consumers without documentation, and 44 percent of consumers who used for both medical and adult use.
Medical patients have had access to legal cannabis since 2013, when the federal government introduced new access rules. The number of registered medical marijuana patients grew more than thirteenfold from fewer than 24,000 in the April-June quarter of 2015 to more than 330,000 patients in the same quarter of 2018.
4) Sales Mostly Filled By Unlicensed Retailers
Only 26 percent of non-medical consumers reported obtaining cannabis from legally authorized retailers or online licensed producers. Medical consumers without a doctor's recommendation, as well as those consuming both medical and adult use were also more likely to seek out cannabis from the unregulated market.
“This was predicted before cannabis was federally legalized,” said Roycroft, who cited lack of accessibility and ongoing prohibition of certain products as contributing factors to high rates of unlicensed purchases.
“The only option is mail order marijuana sites which are thriving on the black market,” Roycroft said.
This is attributed to the product shortage and lack of product selection selection, which has largely driven consumers to purchase with unlicensed producers and retailers, Lucas said. “Over the coming months as the government puts regulations into place for extracts and edibles and as the provinces open up retail you're going to see a bigger move to the regulated market,” Lucas predicted.
A recent research note by Scotiabank analysts forecasts that the unregulated market will dominate 71 percent of cannabis sales in 2019.
5). Consumers Value Product Safety, Accessibility, and Price
When considering where to purchase cannabis, Canadians ranked safety as the No. 1 priority at 76 percent. This was followed by lowest price, at 38 percent, and accessibility, at 33 percent.
Location to home and the availability of preferred potency or formulations were also cited as important factors by more than a quarter of respondents.