National cannabis 4th quarter review

Feb 21, 2019

Statistics Canada has released the results of the National Cannabis Survey (NCS) from the fourth quarter of 2018. According to the Statistics Canada website, the main goal of the survey is “to better understand the frequency of cannabis usage in Canada and to monitor changes in behaviour as a result of the legalization of cannabis for non-medical use.” In addition, the survey will be used together with other data sources to understand how these changes could impact the Canadian economy, as well as health and social services.

Findings from the fourth quarter of the NCS were collected from mid-November to mid-December 2018 with are now available and include results for every province.

According to the findings, about 4.6 million (or 15%) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the last three months, which is a similar figure to what was reported prior to legalization.

Medical cannabis use

According to the results of the survey, individuals who consumed cannabis for medical reasons were more likely to use it daily or almost daily, and less likely to choose smoking as their method of consumption. Moreover, medical users were also more likely to report spending on cannabis than those who reported using for non-medical reasons. A total of 1 in 5 non-medical users reported consuming cannabis daily or almost daily—a considerably smaller share than for medical users with documentation (70%), medical users without medical documentation (46%) and mixed users (46%).

Nearly half of all users report using cannabis for non-medical reasons only.

Around 15% of Canadians surveyed reported current cannabis use. Out of these individuals, 7% (nearly half) reported using cannabis for non-medical reasons exclusively, while 4% (nearly one quarter) indicated using for medical reasons only (with or without medical documentation), while another 4% (also about one quarter) reported using for both medical and non-medical reasons (classified as “mixed use”).

Prevalence of cannabis use

The results of the survey showed that consumption rates were higher among males (19%) than females (11%), which is consistent with data from previous quarters. The survey also determined that the prevalence of cannabis use over the past three months was higher in the age group of 18-24 years (33%) compared to other age groups (which ranged from 5% to 21%).

The survey found that 3 in 10 individuals were former cannabis users who reported no longer using it, while 55% of Canadians aged 15 and older stated that they have never used cannabis. The likelihood of an individual planning to use cannabis in the first part of 2019 was associated with the frequency of their previous use of cannabis. As such, the majority (98%) of individuals who had never consumed cannabis stated that they would not use in the next three months. However, most daily or almost daily (93%) and weekly (84%) users indicated that they planned to use it in next few months at the same frequency.

Medical users are more likely to buy cannabis than non-medical users.

The results of the survey show that spending on cannabis was associated with whether the person uses it for a medical reason. It was found that 95% of medical users with documentation, 87% of mixed users, and 85% of medical users without documentation reported spending money on cannabis in the previous three months. In contrast, only 57% of non-medical users reported having cannabis expenses.

The survey also showed which factors were most important for Canadian cannabis users in their decision determining where they purchase cannabis. The main consideration reported by 76% of all cannabis users was quality and safety, followed by lowest price (38% of users) and accessibility (33% of users).