Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

StatsCan really, really wants to know what you pay for weed

Somewhere inside an imposing government edifice, Statistics Canada is trying to uncover the true cost of weed. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) (CP)

Somewhere inside an imposing government edifice, Statistics Canada is trying to uncover the true cost of weed. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Way back in January, the federal government's statistics bureau launched "StatsCannabis," a crowdsourced data portal designed to find out how much Canadians are spending on weed — both the legal and the black market varieties.

Months later, Statistics Canada is redoubling its efforts, trying to spread the word and increase participation.

It's not that nobody has taken part — StatsCannabis has already received more than 18,000 separate submissions from Canadians willing to share some anonymous data about their last score.

Statistics Canada saw "an enormous amount of interest, initially," said Tony Peluso, an assistant director at Statistics Canada, in an interview with The Leaf News.

"Recently, it's come down a fair amount, so we're making efforts to make the site a little bit more interesting, a little bit more interactive, and also to give data providers or data users a little bit more interesting views or insights into the data that's being provided."

In the near future, he said, StatsCannabis could show users more detailed information about how their prices compare to others.

"Or if things work out, who knows — you might even be able to compare two different municipalities, so that you might compare Ottawa (prices) to the rest of Ontario, or to Toronto."

Of course, Statistics Canada faces a big challenge here: potential users have to be reassured that they won't get in trouble for telling an arm of the federal government about their weed purchases.

Peluso said Statistics Canada doesn't track the IP addresses of submissions — although it does "store just enough information to make sure that the IP addresses are different, and so we do know that it's not the same submission, for instance, from the same person submitting prices multiple times." (This anonymization process is called "hashing" — no joke.)

Why does the federal government want this data so badly? Here's Peluso's pitch:

"We're interested in the price that's being paid for illegal cannabis, and to see how it differs from that that's being paid for legal cannabis… Even in the GDP numbers that we produce, we're trying to measure illegal activity as well."

Statistics Canada is also trying to understanding the price spread between legal and illegal cannabis, especially as it relates to the bulk discounts common in the black market for cannabis.

"If we see that, for instance, people who make large purchases are paying significantly less, and we see that the legal cannabis market doesn't really have larger, lower unit-cost sales available, then what's going on?"

So, here's your chance to perform a civic duty and help the government understand the actual cost of cannabis in Canada, before legalization changes everything.

If you tell Statistics Canada what you paid for a given quantity and quality of cannabis, where you bought it, and what you use it for, you'll be rewarded with a little chart showing how your price compares to national and regional averages.

And who doesn't like a little chart?


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