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National Cannabis Survey, third quarter 2018

Released: 2018-10-11

About 4.6 million or 15% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the past three months. That was a similar percentage to what was reported throughout 2018. Use remains more common among males and 15- to 24-year-olds in the period immediately preceding legalization of cannabis. The percentages reporting daily or almost daily consumption also tended to be higher among males and those under the age of 25.

The Cannabis Act (C-45) is set to become law 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.

To monitor cannabis consumption before and after the legislative change, Statistics Canada is conducting the National Cannabis Survey (NCS) every three months (quarterly) throughout 2018 and into 2019. This release provides the latest information about how cannabis use and spending in Canada is changing, and includes information about its use as it relates to driving. New NCS data for the third quarter, collected from mid-August to mid-September, includes results for the 10 provinces.

Higher rates of cannabis consumption in Nova Scotia and British Columbia

In the third quarter, 23% of residents in Nova Scotia and 20% in British Columbia reported using cannabis in the previous three months, above the estimates for the rest of Canada (other provinces combined). By contrast, Quebec (10%) was the only province where cannabis usage was lower than the rest of Canada during the previous three months.

The rate of cannabis use continued to be higher among males (18%) than females (12%) in the third quarter. Use also decreased with age, as 27% of 15- to 24-year-olds reported cannabis consumption, more than double the rate for people aged 25 and older (13%).

Males not only more likely to report using cannabis but also more likely to use it daily or almost daily

The frequency of cannabis use has been associated with the risk of addiction, poor mental health, and reduced academic achievement.

In the third quarter, 6% of Canadians aged 15 and older (nearly 1.8 million) reported using cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis, while 3% (close to 800,000) reported using weekly.

Daily or almost daily use was more common among males (7%) than females (4%). Age was also a factor, as daily or almost daily use was more prevalent among people aged 15 to 24 (8%) than it was for those aged 45 or older (3%).

One in three users report not paying for cannabis

One in three cannabis users reported not paying for cannabis they consumed in the previous three months, consistent with findings for the first half of 2018. In contrast, one-quarter of cannabis users spent more than $250.

For the first time, detailed data are available on cannabis users who spent in excess of $250 on cannabis. In the third quarter, about 14% of cannabis consumers (more than 650,000 Canadians) spent from $251 to $500 on cannabis, 7% spent from $501 to $1,000, and 3% spent more than $1,000 in the previous three months (or $333 per month, on average).

People who reported consuming cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis typically reported higher expenditures—more than a quarter spent from $251 to $500 and another quarter spent more than $500.

People who used cannabis infrequently were more likely to report little or no expenses. About two-thirds of cannabis users who consumed cannabis once or twice in the third quarter reported spending nothing on cannabis, perhaps reflecting the social or sharing culture of cannabis users.

About one in seven cannabis users with a driver's licence reported driving within two hours of using

Over the first nine months of 2018 (combined survey data for the first, second and third quarters), 14% of cannabis users with a valid driver's licence reported driving within two hours of using.

Males were nearly twice as likely as females to engage in this behaviour.

The percentage who reported driving after consuming did not differ by age, with similar proportions reporting for people aged 15 to 24 and for those aged 25 and older.

The prevalence of driving after use also did not vary across the country.

Frequency of cannabis use, however, did play a role in a user's likelihood of driving within two hours of consumption. People who consumed cannabis on a daily or almost daily basis (28%) were about nine times more likely to engage in this behaviour than those who reported using cannabis once or twice (3%) over a three-month period.

Proportion of Canadians riding in a vehicle operated by a driver who had consumed cannabis unchanged from previous quarter

In the third quarter, 5% (or 1.5 million) of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported being passengers in vehicles operated by drivers who had consumed cannabis within the previous two hours—the same as in the previous quarter (the first time this information was collected).

While the likelihood of reporting this activity did not differ by gender, it did by age with 16% of youth and young adults aged 15 to 24 reporting being passengers in vehicles driven by potentially impaired drivers—more than four times as often as people aged 25 or older (4%).

Getting into a vehicle with a driver who had consumed cannabis was more common among passengers who were also current users of cannabis. For example, 27% of users reported having been a passenger compared with 2% of those who indicated no use in the past three months.

The proportions reporting having been passengers in vehicles operated by drivers who had consumed cannabis remained fairly similar across the country in the second and third quarters, with some variation in Manitoba (third quarter) and Saskatchewan (second quarter), where residents reported lower-than-average occurrences.

Monitoring of these numbers will continue so that a clearer understanding of them can be determined over time, given that these data have been collected during a period of near unprecedented change as it relates to drug policy and policing.






  Note to readers

The Cannabis Act (C-45) is set to become law 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.

To monitor cannabis consumption before and after the legislative change, Statistics Canada collaborated with partners at Health Canada, Public Safety Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop this new survey, the National Cannabis Survey (NCS), which will be collected every three months (quarterly) throughout 2018 and into 2019.

This release provides the latest data about how cannabis use and spending in Canada is changing, and includes information about its use as it relates to driving.

The NCS falls under the new 'Rapid Stats' program being offered by Special Surveys Division, Statistics Canada, to rapidly respond to pressing data needs.

The main objective of the NCS is to focus on the level of cannabis use in the past three months, and the likelihood that respondents may change their cannabis-related behaviours during the periods immediately preceding and following legalization on October 17, 2018, of non-medical cannabis by adults.

The third quarter data were collected in the provinces in August and September 2018. The first quarter data were collected in February and March 2018 (provinces only), while the second quarter data were collected in May and June (provinces and territorial capitals).

The target population for the survey is the household population aged 15 years or older and excludes residents of institutions, the homeless and people living on indigenous reserves.

The third quarter survey response rate was 51.6% yielding a sample of 5,798; second and first quarter survey response rates were 51.3% and 51.2%, respectively, and correspond to samples of 7,285 and 5,817.

Cannabis users are defined as having used some form of cannabis in the past three months, for either a medical or non-medical purpose.

Cannabis includes marijuana, hashish, hash oil or any other preparation of the cannabis plant.

Survey sampling weights were applied so that the analyses would be representative of the Canadian population.

All differences between characteristics and the comparison groups discussed are statistically significantly at the p < 0.05 and were tested using t-test statistics and bootstrap replicate weights to account for the survey's complex sampling design.

All analyses, which include second quarter results, were estimated with and without data from the territorial capitals where possible. Because the results did not change appreciably with the territories or without and because the third quarter data were collected in the provinces only, all second quarter results exclude the territorial data.

Data limitations and cautions

The information in this release is self-reported and has not been validated. Social desirability and fear of punishment, both of which are potential sources of bias, may be especially relevant to this analysis. Changes over time in respondents' willingness to admit drug use may be influencing the statistics but remains difficult to measure.

As an ongoing quarterly, the NCS has been designed to monitor short-term change in behaviours during the months immediately preceding and following the adoption of the Cannabis Act.

Small sample sizes for some analyses may also have reduced the ability to reach statistical significance. As well, not all relevant covariates were available. Combining cycles and averaging results across quarters can improve statistical power and the stability of the estimates.

Additional information

For more information regarding cannabis statistics. consult the Statistics Canada Cannabis Hub.

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.

Products

The infographic "National Cannabis Survey, 3rd quarter 2018," which is part of Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M), is now available.

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; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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