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More Canadians Buying Cannabis Through Legal Channels

A recent survey suggests the proportion of Canadians always purchasing cannabis legally is increasing – and it’s hitting the illicit market hard.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, and recreational use was legalized under the The Cannabis Act that came into effect on October 17, 2018. Back in 2017, Health Canada kicked off the Canadian Cannabis Survey (CCS) to obtain detailed information about the habits and related behavior of citizens who use cannabis, including:

  • Quantities consumed
  • The use of cannabis for medical purposes
  • Sources and pricing
  • Public safety

The 2023 CCS included additional questions relating to:

  • Adverse reactions
  • How consumers identify legal sources
  • Cannabis packaging
  • Assessment of problematic use.

The 2023 survey revealed 26% of people 16 years of age and older reported having used cannabis for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months. This was the same result as for 2022, but past 12-month cannabis use increased over time from 22% in 2018.

57% reported using cannabis 3 days per month or less, and 15% reported daily cannabis use. More used cannabis 2 to 3 days per month in the latest survey, while fewer used 3 to 4 days per week or daily.

In terms of product types – medical and non-medical:

  • Dried flower or leaf (60%; down from 2018 and 2022)
  • Edibles (54%; up from 2018)
  • Vape pens or cartridges (34%; up from 2018)
  • Oil, taken orally (26%; up from 2019 and 2022)
  • Beverages (19%; up from 2018)
  • Hashish or kief (16%; down from 2018)
  • Topical products (12%; up from 2019 and 2022)
  • Concentrates or extracts (11%, down from 2018).

As for primary sourcing of products:

  • 73% from a legal source (up from 2019 and 2022)
  • 15% from a social source
  • 5% grew their own
  • 3% reported using an illegal purchase source
  • 2% from “another” source
  • 2% from a storefront in a First Nations community

69% reported they ‘always’ obtain cannabis from a legal or licensed source, 10% responded ‘mostly’, 6% ‘sometimes’, 6% ‘rarely’, and 9% responded ‘never’. The most commonly prioritized factors on purchase source were price (42%), convenience (15%), and strength (9%).

Respondents reported spending approximately CAD $54 a month to obtain cannabis from legal sources – a significant decrease from $65 in 2022. But the bigger drop was in relation to illegal sources – $8 a month compared to $47 in 2020 and $19 in 2022.

The above just scratches the surface of the survey results, which can be viewed in full here. 11,690 respondents aged 16 years and older across all provinces and territories participated in the latest survey.

On a related note, a recent Canadian study has indicated medical cannabis use is generally safe, with few serious adverse events.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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