Statistics Canada releases a bong full of new cannabis data

Men consume cannabis more than women; 42 per cent of cannabis consumers still buy at least some from the black market

Statistics Canada released a whack of statistics this week that shed some insight into the almost five million Canadians who consumed cannabis during the first half of 2019.

Among the findings were that more men consume cannabis than do women, and that men consume cannabis more frequently than women. Men also consume cannabis for non-medical reasons than do women.

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Another big takeaway was that 42 per cent of Canadians who consumed cannabis said that they bought at least some of their cannabis from black-market dealers in the first half of the year.

The stats were all part of Statistics Canada’s National Cannabis Survey (NCS), which continued to show that males and females older than age 15 differ in how they obtain and consume cannabis products.

Females, for example, more often reported getting cannabis from family and friends than their male counterparts. That may explain why fewer females said they paid for the cannabis they consume. The study didn’t go into how many people stole cannabis, although it noted that four per cent got their cannabis in an unspecified way.

Females are more likely to use an alternative method to consume cannabis, such as putting it on the skin or under the tongue.

Males are more likely to report consuming dried cannabis and hashish.

To monitor cannabis consumption before and after Canada legalized cannabis last October, the nation’s number cruncher has been conducting the NCS every three months since 2018.

Males almost twice as likely as females to have consumed cannabis

Males (21 per cent) were almost twice as likely to have used cannabis in the first half of 2019 as females (12 per cent), according to the NCS. This held true for every age group except seniors aged 65 and older.

Almost three in five females reported never having consumed cannabis (59 per cent), compared with just over half (51 per cent) of males.

About one-third of Canadians reported having tried cannabis in the past but are not current users.

Males more likely to use cannabis daily or almost daily

Statistics Canada said in its Aug. 15 release that research has shown that using cannabis regularly and over a long period of time has been associated with the “risk of dependence and poor mental health”

According to combined data from the first half of 2019, males (eight per cent) were twice as likely to report daily or almost daily use as females (four per cent). Males were also more likely than females to consume cannabis on a weekly and a monthly basis but equally as likely to report occasional use (defined here as once or twice over the three-month reference periods).

Males are more likely to use cannabis for non-medical reasons

Statistics Canada asked Canadians to say whether they used cannabis for medical purposes and had a medical document, for medical purposes without a medical document or simply for fun, or what some call recreational use.

Just over one-fifth of males aged 15 and older reported consuming cannabis in the first half of 2019. More than half of these males (52 per cent) reported using cannabis exclusively for non-medical reasons, while about 30 per cent reported using it for both medical and non-medical reasons, and about one-fifth reported medical reasons (with or without medical documentation).

Meanwhile, 12 per cent of females said that they consuming cannabis in the first half of 2019. Their reasons were fairly evenly split, between those who said it was for non-medical use, medical use or a mix of both.

Cannabis products and consumption methods

About 77 per cent of Canadians who said they used cannabis during the first half of 2019 consumed dried cannabis, while 26 per cent consumed edibles. Other reported ways of consuming cannabis were as liquid concentrates (20 per cent), cannabis oil cartridges or vape pens (19 per cent), and hashish or kief (16 per cent).

More males (82 per cent) said they consumed dried cannabis, compared with females (67 per cent). Males (19 per cent) were also more likely to have consumed hashish or kief, compared with females (12 per cent).

While a majority of both males and females use dried cannabis, for 49 per cent of males and 41 per cent of females, it is the only form of cannabis that they consumed.

Conversely, females (23 per cent) were almost twice as likely as males (12 per cent) to report using only products other than dried cannabis. Other products include edibles, oil cartridges and vape pens.

Smoking remains the most common method of consuming cannabis, with 68 per cent of males and 62 per cent of females choosing this method in the first half of 2019, according to Statistics Canada.

At 14 per cent, females were almost three times more likely than males (five per cent) to have consumed cannabis through methods such as the application of products on the skin or under the tongue.

Buying cannabis

Males are more likely to purchase cannabis while females are more likely to get it from family and friends for free.

Approximately one-quarter of Canadians who consumed cannabis in the first half of 2019 did not pay for it, with female consumers (29 per cent) more likely than males (22 per cent) to consume it without having paid for it, according to the survey.

Nearly half of all cannabis consumers (48 per cent) reported buying at least some of their cannabis from a legal source, such as a legally authorized retailer or an online licensed producer.

There was 42 per cent, however, who said that they bought at least some of their cannabis from illegal sources, such as a drug dealer, while 37 per cent said that they used cannabis that they got from, or shared among, friends and family.

Growing cannabis, either by the users or by someone else, was a supply source for about eight per cent of consumers, while four per cent reported another source, although Statistics Canada did not specify what that source might be.

For the first time, analysis of the sources of cannabis by type of consumer (those who obtained it from one source and those who obtained it from multiple sources) is available. This more detailed examination revealed that 29 per cent of all current users got their cannabis exclusively from legal sources.

In general, males and females access cannabis from the same sources and in similar numbers, but with one notable difference: a relatively larger proportion of females (42 per cent) than males (33 per cent) report friends and family as their cannabis source.

Quality and safety remain foremost consideration when deciding where to buy cannabis

Three-quarters of Canadians (76 per cent) who consumed cannabis in the first half of 2019 said quality and safety was an important consideration when buying it, while 42 per cent primarily considered price.

Other important factors when buying cannabis were accessibility, location and availability of a preferred potency.

While both males and females share many of the same considerations when obtaining cannabis, there are a few differences. For example, females (22 per cent) were twice as likely as males (11 per cent) to cite sales support as being important, while proportionally more males (19 per cent) placed a higher value on anonymity and discretion than did females (12 per cent). More males (20 per cent) said that availability of a preferred strain of cannabis was important than did females (11 per cent.)

Males are more likely to report that they will use cannabis in next three months

More males (25 per cent) than females (16 per cent) said they thought that they would use cannabis in the next three months. That is higher than the 21 per cent of males and 12 per cent of females who currently consume cannabis.

Virtually all Canadians (99 per cent) who reported having never consumed cannabis indicated that they will not use cannabis in the next three months. In contrast, most daily or almost daily (94 per cent) and weekly (87 per cent) users think that they will continue to consume cannabis over the next three months and at a similar pace.

Former users (12 per cent) and those who use cannabis less than once a month (27 per cent) were more likely to report that they will increase their consumption in the coming three months than were people who have never used cannabis (one per cent).

Second quarter 2019: Almost five million Canadians report using cannabis

From mid-May to mid-June 2019, about 4.9 million or 16 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the previous three months, according to Statistics Canada.

This was unchanged from data collected from provinces a year ago, when recreational cannabis use was illegal. It is also unchanged from the last time estimates for from territorial capitals were collected.

In the second quarter of 2019, 24 per cent of Nova Scotians and 20 per cent of Albertans reported using cannabis in the previous three months. That is above the average for the rest of Canada (other provinces and territorial capitals combined).

Cannabis use in the previous three months was also above the national average in all three territorial capitals: Whitehorse (24 per cent), Yellowknife (30 per cent) and Iqaluit (32 per cent). Meanwhile, current use was lower than the national average in Quebec (10 per cent).

Cannabis consumption in the second quarter of 2019 was essentially unchanged from the same quarter in 2018, prior to legalization. However, the number of Canadians aged 65 and older reporting cannabis use increased from three per cent to five per cent over this period, while cannabis use among 15- to 64-year-olds was stable (ranging from 10 per cent to 25 per cent, depending on the age group).

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom

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