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Health Canada releases findings of 2018 cannabis survey

By Jacqueline Havelka
Nov 28, 2018

Last week Health Canada released the findings from their 2018 Cannabis Survey Summary, an overview of the opinions of almost 13,000 Canadians taken last spring, before the legalization of cannabis up north.

Still, citizens were preparing for recreational cannabis to become legal at the time of the survey, a fact which undoubtedly affected respondents opinions.

Smoking cannabis on the decline

The survey revealed that a growing number of Canadians have passed up smoking cannabis in favor of other methods of ingestion, most notably edibles and vaping. However, smoking remains the most popular way of consuming recreational marijuana; of people surveyed who used cannabis in the last year, 89 percent smoked it.

Still, smoking declined 7 percent since last year’s survey.

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Consumption of edibles rose to 42 percent —up nearly 10 percent from 2017 —and vaping had a 20 percent increase. The use of vape pens rose from 6 percent to 26 percent among those surveyed, while vaporizer use was unchanged at 14 percent.

A useful snapshot of target demographics

Spending appears to have increased slightly on non-medical cannabis, as described by the survey. People who used non-medical cannabis within the last month spent roughly 85 Canadian dollars ($63.74) on product, while over 12 months that number was $73 ($54.74). The survey also showed that men spent more than women.

According to the results of the survey, dried flower is still the most popular, with 82 percent of consumers surveyed, but the figure fell six percentage points from its 2017 value of 88 percent, with the decline being attributable to the shift to vaping and edibles.

In fact, edibles came in second, rising from 32 percent last year to 41 percent this year. Use of both solid and liquid cannabis concentrates rose about 5 percent each since 2017. For all of the above products, Canadians reported frequency of use about once per month.

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The data gathered come from two surveys, the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey and the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.

Regarding the age demographic, the survey revealed that about 15 percent of kids over the age of 15 had used cannabis during the last year, with most of those being between 20 and 24 years of age. Nearly 20 percent of kids in middle school and high school have used cannabis in the last year as well.

What the future holds

These two particular surveys are not designed to capture specific details about consumption or cannabis perception, but they did touch on four main themes, including knowledge and attitudes toward cannabis, driving, and cannabis, medical cannabis use, and non-medical products used.

Health Canada says next year’s surveys will compare pre- and post-legalization to hopefully shed light on the impact of the country’s new legislation and will help the agency develop new programs and initiatives like awareness campaigns and public education.

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The Canadian Cannabis Survey was first conducted in 2017 to look in depth at use patterns, quantities consumed, cannabis sources and pricing and safety issues like impaired driving. The 2018 survey goes even further, asking respondents about perceived uses of cannabis and associated risk, willingness to report illegal cannabis use, school absenteeism, work absenteeism, treatment for cannabis abuse and maternal use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

All survey responses were filtered by age and province to glean even more information. Detailed results of the surveys can be found on the Health Canada website.

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