Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

Digging deeper into StatsCan's latest weed data

Canadian cannabis consumers are looking for quality and safety above all, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. (Brian McInnis/ The Canadian Press files)

Canadian cannabis consumers are looking for quality and safety above all, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. (Brian McInnis/ The Canadian Press files)

The big headline number from Statistics Canada's latest cannabis data shows Canadians used cannabis at about the same rates before and after legalization (roughly 15 per cent), but that's not the only worthwhile finding from the fourth-quarter National Cannabis Survey.

Statistics Canada's survey also asked cannabis consumers about what they're considering when they buy cannabis. The number one concern was "quality and safety," cited by 76 per cent of respondents, far outweighing the 38 per cent who cited "lowest price."

That could be an encouraging indicator for the legal Canadian cannabis industry, which is trying to build a reputation on quality and safety even though legal cannabis is generally more expensive than black market cannabis.

The new data also reveal some important details about how Canadians use medical marijuana.

The latest figures from Health Canada show 342,103 registered medical cannabis users in September 2018,  but Statistics Canada's survey estimated about 479,100 self-reported cannabis users who have a medical document that authorizes them to use.

Statistics Canada warns "there is no standard definition of a medical cannabis user," and that its figure shouldn't be considered a measure of how many medical cannabis users access the drug through Health Canada's system, but the discrepancy merits further investigation: how many Canadians have a doctor's note to use medical cannabis, but aren't actually accessing it through Health Canada's regime? Why not?

One thing is clear: a greater proportion of Canadians who report using cannabis for medical reasons are doing so without a doctor's say-so. Statistics Canada estimates 620,400 such people, or about 30 per cent more than the number of self-reported medical cannabis users with a doctor's note.

When it comes to consuming cannabis, medical cannabis users appear to be much more likely to avoid combustion. Among the total population of cannabis users surveyed by Statistics Canada, 72.5 per cent said smoking was their top way to consume.

Medical users with a medical document were far less likely to report smoking (about 37 per cent). For medical users without a medical document, about 58 per cent said smoking was their go-to method.

From a public health perspective, lower rates of smoking among medical cannabis users is encouraging news.

Aside from that, Statistics Canada's latest weed data dump re-affirms some of the statistical trends we've seen in past surveys: men use cannabis at a higher rate than women, younger people tend to use it more than older people, Nova Scotians really love their weed, and Quebecers love it less than anyone else.


New on The Leaf

  • Medical cannabis is taxed the same as recreation weed. (Ron Ward / The Canadian Press files)

    Medical cannabis is taxed the same as recreation weed. (Ron Ward / The Canadian Press files)

    "In Canada, we don't tax medicine": Medical cannabis users are campaigning to get the government to remove the taxes on their medication.
  • Licence suspension: Winnipeg-based cannabis firm Bonify's regulatory troubles continue, after Health Canada says it was selling cannabis purchased from an illegal source.
  • Disqualified: An unnamed winner of Ontario's retail cannabis licence lottery has lost their chance, all because they didn't follow the provincial government's rules.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • That market potential of cannabis-infused beer has some alcohol companies working on formulas. (Cole Burston / Bloomberg files)

    That market potential of cannabis-infused beer has some alcohol companies working on formulas. (Cole Burston / Bloomberg files)

    Medical cannabis on the roads: Police stopped a multiple sclerosis patient who uses cannabis for medical purposes, and determined she wasn't impaired — she was arrested regardless.
  • Bud beverages: A variety of companies are trying to make a cannabis-infused beer equivalent, but it's not a straightforward endeavour.
  • The Cannabis Act and youth: Lawyers take issue with the way the new law treats underage cannabis possession

What Next

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