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Health Reports: Prevalence and correlates of non-medical only and self-defined medical and non-medical cannabis use

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Released: 2018-07-18

The Cannabis Act, which creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada, will come into effect on October 17, 2018. To prepare for this change, Statistics Canada has been adapting the national statistical system to measure the social and economic impacts of legalized cannabis. According to a recent Statistics Canada study, cannabis use among Canadians aged 15 year and older more than doubled from 5.6% in 1985 to 12.3% in 2015, and was highest among those aged 18 to 24 (28.4%).

A new study released today in Health Reports examines the prevalence of, and the characteristics associated with, people reporting cannabis use exclusively for non-medical purposes and makes comparisons to people who reported mixed use, that is, some self-defined medical use in combination with non-medical use. This is the first time this type of analysis could be conducted using the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, given the addition of new questions about cannabis use for medical purposes.

The results indicate that 9.5% of Canadians aged 15 and older used cannabis in the previous year for non-medical purposes exclusively, while another 2.8% reported some cannabis use for self-defined medical purposes in addition to non-medical use. Half of Canadians reporting some self-defined medical use cited pain relief as the primary reason. Other reasons included treating anxiety, nerves and depression (18.6%) or insomnia (18.3%).

Those who reported some use for medical purposes (47.2%) were more likely than non-medical users (26.4%) to use cannabis daily or near daily. Mixed purpose cannabis use was also more common among people reporting worse general and mental health, use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals, and living in lower-income households.

The rates of both mixed use (5.4%) and cannabis use exclusively for non-medical purposes (11.8%) were highest in British Columbia.

Today's report is part of an ongoing series of products released by Statistics Canada related to economic and social aspects of cannabis, including information on consumption, prices and cannabis-related offences. All information products released to date by Statistics Canada, as well as forthcoming products, can be found on the new Cannabis Stats Hub.

Also available:

Additional information on cannabis consumption in Canada can be found in the following research articles: "Analysis of trends in the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada, 1985 to 2015," Health Reports (Catalogue number82-003-X); "Constructing Historical Cannabis Consumption Volume Estimates for Canada, 1960 to 2015" Analytical Studies: Methods and References (Catalogue number11-633-X); "Experimental Estimates of Cannabis Consumption in Canada, 1960 to 2015," Economic Insights (Catalogue number11-626-X).

  Note to readers

The data are from the cross-sectional 2015 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS), which provides estimates on tobacco, alcohol and drug use as well as related issues. The survey was conducted by Statistics Canada and sponsored by Health Canada.

The target population of the CTADS was the household population aged 15 and older in each province. Data were collected from February to December 2015 and were self-reported.

Because the CTADS does not collect information about whether the individual has received a health care practitioner's authorization to use cannabis for a medical purpose, this analysis should not be interpreted as an evaluation of people who access cannabis through Health Canada's medical access program, the Access Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations.

Statistics Canada is collecting information on cannabis prices through a crowdsourcing site, StatsCannabis. Please visit the site and share your information with confidence; participation is anonymous.


"Prevalence and correlates of non-medical only compared to self-defined medical and non-medical cannabis use, Canada, 2015" is now available in the July 2018 online issue of Health Reports, Vol. 29, no. 7 (Catalogue number82-003-X).

This issue of Health Reports also contains the article "Tuberculosis-related hospital use among recent immigrants to Canada."

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about "Prevalence and correlates of non-medical only and self-defined medical and non-medical cannabis use, Canada, 2015," contact Michelle Rotermann (, Health Analysis Division.

To enquire about "Tuberculosis-related hospital use among recent immigrants to Canada," contact Edward Ng (, Health Analysis Division.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Janice Felman (613-799-7746;, Health Analysis Division.

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