Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Ahead of legalization, who's using cannabis in Canada?

Statistically speaking, the Canadian rolling this joint is likely to be young and male. (Matt Goerzen / The Brandon Sun files)

Statistically speaking, the Canadian rolling this joint is likely to be young and male. (Matt Goerzen / The Brandon Sun files)

One common assumption in Canada these days is that more Canadians will start using marijuana after legalization kicks off.

We'll have to wait and see whether that prediction pans out, but in the meantime, a well-timed data release from Statistics Canada gives us one final, pre-legalization glimpse of how many Canadians are using cannabis before the law changes five days from now.

Among Canadians aged 15 and older, roughly 4.6 million people — 15 per cent of the population — used cannabis in Canada's 10 provinces in the third quarter of this year.

Toking rates were highest in Nova Scotia (23 per cent) and British Columbia (20 per cent). Cannabis was particularly unpopular in Quebec, with just a 10 per cent usage rate. The province with the highest number of cannabis users, of course, is Ontario (Canada's most populous province is home to almost 1.8 million cannabis users) but cannabis usage rates in Ontario were in line with the 15 per cent provincial average.

Cannabis use in Canada skews towards a younger, male demographic, according to Statistics Canada's findings. Twenty-seven per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 24 reported using cannabis in the three month period, compared to just 13 per cent of those aged 25 and up. The usage rate for males was about 18 per cent, versus roughly 12 per cent for females.

About 1.8 million of Canada's 4.6 million weed users (or six per cent of the total population aged 15 and up) used daily or almost daily, and about 800,000 (about three per cent) used it on a weekly basis. Some of the daily or almost-daily crowd spent heavily on marijuana: nearly 29 per cent of them spent between $251 and $500 on cannabis over the quarter, and another quarter of those heavy users spent more than $500.

This data isn't perfect. It didn't capture Canadian cannabis users under the age of 15 and left out cannabis users in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Homeless people and people living in institutions such as jails, hospitals and nursing homes were also excluded, as were those living on First Nations reserves. Plus, respondents to the survey were self-reporting their own cannabis use, which isn't always the most reliable measure when it comes to illicit drugs.

But, it's the data we've got — and with legalization bringing cannabis use in Canada above ground at last, it ought to get a whole lot better.


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Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

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    Investors beware: Publicly-traded Canadian cannabis firms are doing a poor job of disclosing important information to shareholders, warns a securities regulator. Bloomberg's Kristine Owram has the scoop.
  • Weed's in a name: What should journalists call marijuana? "Cannabis"? "Weed"? "Pot"? The Columbia Journalism Review explores cannabis nomenclature.
  • Facebook likes cannabis again: The social media behemoth will stop blocking cannabis-related search terms, reports MarketWatch.

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