Canadian researchers are raising concerns about the social impact of the higher-than-expected increase in alcohol and cannabis sales since the Covid pandemic started.
In a study published Thursday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers drew conclusions from analysis of sales from both industries before and during the pandemic. They found that sales were more than $2.6 billion higher than what was predicted based on past data.
The study looked at sales estimates based on if the pandemic didn’t happen. Alcohol sales were $1.9-billion or nearly 6-per-cent higher, while cannabis sales were $811-million or 25-per-cent higher.
Read more: Global cannabis sales grow 41% in 2021: BDSA
For the study, researchers used sales data from Statistics Canada sales from March 2020 to June 2021, and compared the information to the previous 16 months starting in November 2018.
Before the pandemic, monthly alcohol sales were around $2 billion, but during the pandemic, the monthly average increased by 9 per cent to $2.2 billion.
Pre-Covid, monthly cannabis sales in February 2020 were $151 million, up from $55 million in November 2018.
During the pandemic, monthly cannabis retail sales increased by 70 per cent, averaging $256 million per month.
Average monthly pre-pandemic sales were significantly lower than pandemic sales, but not as useful for data comparisons given the steep post-legalization increase.
In March 2020, there was a spike in alcohol and weed sales after people started stockpiling supplies, but pot sales kept on growing and dramatically increased compared to the year before.
“And it is possible that the pandemic pushed consumers from illegal terrestrial purchasing to legal online purchasing,” reads the study.
Since legalization, Canadian policymakers have changed their approach to regulating the market in different ways, such as eliminating lottery systems for cannabis store applicants, as well as allowing private pickup and delivery. These changes, as well as hundreds of new producers coming to market, have likely increased the rate at which consumers buy legal cannabis.