Statistics Canada released updated numbers for its National Cannabis Survey, which looked at usage during the first quarter of 2019. Below are some of the key takeaways from the report.
Cannabis use increased overall
For Canadians that were 15 or older, 18% claim to have used cannabis during the first three months of the year. That’s up from 14% that was reported in the previous year. However, part of this could be that since marijuana is legal, it’s also now more acceptable to admit to using pot and there’s less of a stigma in someone saying that they used it. Overall, there wasn’t much of a change when it came to cannabis users that consume on a daily basis, suggesting that usage may have not intensified.
Big increase in new users
What might be the most telling sign of the growth in the industry is that during the first quarter, as many as 646,000 users reported using cannabis for the first time. This was just short of double last year’s tally which saw 327,000 people give cannabis a try. Now that legalization has long passed, it has made it a lot easier for those sitting on the fence or that had an interest in cannabis to explore it further.
It’s likely not a big surprise that it was older users that made up a big chunk of new cannabis users, without about half of 2019’s number being made up of people that were 45 and older.
Is the black market shrinking?
An encouraging trend sign for the government will be that so far in 2019 we’ve seen more users opt for the legal market than a year ago. From just 23% of users opting for legal cannabis last year, that number has climbed to 47% through the first three months of this year. However, here again, it’s important to remember that the legal market a year ago consisted of just medicinal marijuana. There were no legal options for obtaining recreational pot and so relying on this metric might be a little misleading.
New users could have also been behind the increase in percentages, as the report noted that less than a quarter (23%) of new users obtained cannabis from illegal sources, whereas other users were much more willing to go to the black market (40%). New users are going to be the key to the industry’s long-term growth since they often include an older demographic that’s willing to pay a higher price for cannabis and that likely won’t be as easily connected to the black market.
However, prices will still need to come down and we won’t truly have an accurate picture of if the black market is shrinking until we can compare apples to apples and compare post-legalization against itself. One of the challenges in the market has been in attaining reliable, accurate numbers on the industry because the black market has made it difficult to estimate how big the industry really is.
Many Canadians consume before going to work or getting behind the wheel
One concerning issue is that the report found that 15% of cannabis users with a license admitted to driving within two hours of consumption and that 13% consumed it before or during work. And these are just the users that admitted to doing what should be clear no-nos. It highlights the need for more education still needed to ensure that unnecessary risks aren’t taken as a result of taking cannabis.