Canada: More new cannabis users since legalization

In Canada, 646,000 people reported using cannabis for the first time since its legalization in October 2018

The National Cannabis Survey, which covers the first quarter of 2019, released on Thursday evening, shows that 18% of Canadians over the age of 15 reported using the drug, compared to 14% in the first three months of the previous year, according to the federal Statistics Canada Institute.

Canada, the second country in the world where recreational cannabis is legal

Among the many fears raised by the Trudeau government’s controversial new legislation was the fear of an increase in driving after taking marijuana. The number of drivers who drove less than two hours after using marijuana remained stable at 15%, according to the study. A fifth of these drivers, or more than 120,000 people, even admitted to driving with cannabis and alcohol, which multiplies the risk of accidents according to the authorities.

On October 17, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, five years after Uruguay.

A desire to try a once illegal substance?

During this period, some 646,000 people reported having used cannabis for the first time, almost double the figure collected a year earlier (327,000). Men aged 45 to 64 are the most affected.

“Some of these new users were first-time users, while others were former users who tried cannabis again after legalization,” says the Institute.

This increase in new users will be monitored in the coming months to determine whether it is related to “a desire to try a previously illegal substance” or whether it marks “the beginning of longer-term trends,” Statistics Canada points out.

Legalization or not, consumption continues to remain higher among men (22%) than among women (13%). It also remains more common among young people: almost one in three consumers is aged 15 to 24.

Killing the black market

“Cannabis use on most or almost every day remains unchanged while weekly and occasional use increases,” the study’s authors also noted. One of the objectives of this flagship legislation under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate was to dry up the black market: its share of total cannabis sales appears to have declined, according to initial results.

“Fewer users reported obtaining cannabis from illegal sources such as a reseller in the first three months of 2019 (38%) compared to the first quarter of 2018 (51%),” the study notes.

At the beginning of 2018, only cannabis for therapeutic use was legal. It has been authorized since 2001 in Canada but represents only a tiny portion of total sales.