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National Cannabis Survey, second quarter 2019

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Released: 2019-08-15

Canadian males aged 15 and older are more likely to consume cannabis compared with their female counterparts. Males use cannabis more frequently—they are also more likely than females to consume it for non-medical reasons and to purchase the cannabis they use.

New data from the National Cannabis Survey (NCS) continue to show that males and females differ in how they obtain and consume cannabis products post legalization.

Females, for example, more often report getting cannabis from family and friends than their male counterparts, which may also explain why fewer females pay for the cannabis they consume.

The use of "other" methods of cannabis consumption, such as "on the skin or under the tongue" is also more common among females.

Males are more likely to report consuming dried cannabis (flower/leaf) and hashish.

The Cannabis Act (C-45) became law on October 17, 2018. To monitor cannabis consumption before and after the legislative change, Statistics Canada has been conducting the NCS every three months (quarterly) since 2018. This release provides the latest information about cannabis use in Canada. Analyses of data for the first half of 2019, as well as for the second quarter of 2019, are available.

Males almost twice as likely as females to have consumed cannabis

Males (21%) were almost twice as likely to have used cannabis in the first half of 2019 as females (12%). This held true for every age group except seniors aged 65 and older.

Almost three in five females reported never having consumed cannabis (59%), compared with just over half (51%) of males.

About one-third of Canadians (males and females) reported having tried cannabis in the past but are not current users.

Males more likely to use cannabis daily or almost daily

Research has shown that using cannabis regularly and over a long period of time has been associated with the risk of dependence and poor mental health.

According to combined data from the first half of 2019, males (8%) were twice as likely to report daily or almost daily use as females (4%). Males were also more likely than females to consume cannabis on a weekly and a monthly basis but equally as likely to report occasional use (defined here as once or twice over the three-month reference periods).

Males are more likely to use cannabis for non-medical reasons

Canadians were asked to provide their main reason for using cannabis, that is, for non-medical use, for medical use with a medical document, for medical use without a document, or for both medical and non-medical use.

Just over one-fifth of males aged 15 and older reported consuming cannabis in the first half of 2019. More than half of these males (52%) reported using cannabis exclusively for non-medical reasons, while about 30% reported using for both medical and non-medical reasons, and about one-fifth reported medical reasons (with or without medical documentation).

Meanwhile, about one in eight females (12%) reported consuming cannabis in the first half of 2019. The reasons reported were fairly evenly split among "non-medical only," "medical only" or "mixed".

Chart 1  Chart 1: Percentage of people reporting non-medical, medical and both medical and non-medical cannabis use, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, first half of 2019
Percentage of people reporting non-medical, medical and both medical and non-medical cannabis use, household population aged 15 years and older, Canada, first half of 2019

Dried cannabis (flower/leaf) and hashish are more commonly used by males than by females

Just over three-quarters of Canadians who reported using cannabis during the first half of 2019 consumed dried cannabis (flower/leaf) (77%), while 26% consumed edibles. Canadians also reported using other types of products, such as liquid concentrates (20%), cannabis oil cartridges or vape pens (19%), and hashish or kief (16%).

A greater proportion of males (82%) used dried cannabis, compared with females (67%). Males (19%) were also more likely to have consumed hashish or kief, compared with females (12%).

Not only is dried cannabis used by the majority of consumers, but for almost half of male consumers (49%) and about 4 in 10 females (41%), it is the only product consumed.

Conversely, females (23%) were almost twice as likely as males (12%) to report using only products other than dried cannabis (flower/leaf). Other products include edibles, oil cartridges and vape pens.

Smoking remains the most popular way to consume cannabis

Smoking remains the most common method of consuming cannabis, with approximately two-thirds of male (68%) and female (62%) consumers choosing this method in the first half of 2019.

Females (14%) were almost three times more likely than males (5%) to have consumed cannabis through "other methods," such as the application of products on the skin or under the tongue.

Males more likely to purchase cannabis, while females more likely to get it from family and friends for free

Approximately one-quarter of Canadians who consumed cannabis in the first half of 2019 did not pay for it, with female consumers (29%) more likely than males (22%) to consume it without having paid for it.

Nearly half of all cannabis consumers (48%) reported purchasing at least some of their cannabis from a legal source, such as a legally authorized retailer or an online licensed producer.

Just over 4 in 10 cannabis consumers (42%) reported purchasing at least some of their cannabis from illegal sources, such as a drug dealer, while over one-third (37%) reported using cannabis obtained from (or shared among) friends and family.

Growing cannabis, either by the users or by someone else, was a supply source for about 8% of consumers, and 4% reported another (unspecified) source.

Infographic 1  Thumbnail for Infographic 1: Percentage of current consumers who access cannabis from each source (exclusively or not), by gender, Canada, first half of 2019
Percentage of current consumers who access cannabis from each source (exclusively or not), by gender, Canada, first half of 2019

For the first time, analysis of the sources of cannabis by type of consumer (those who obtained it from one source and those who obtained it from multiple sources) is available. This more detailed examination reveals that 29% of all current users obtain their cannabis from a legal source only.

In general, males and females access cannabis from the same sources and in similar numbers, but with one notable difference: a relatively larger proportion of females (42%) than males (33%) report friends and family as their cannabis source.

Quality and safety remain foremost consideration when deciding where to buy cannabis

Three-quarters of Canadians (76%) who consumed cannabis in the first half of 2019 cited quality and safety as an important consideration when purchasing cannabis, while 42% mainly considered price. About one-third also reported accessibility (such as open evenings and weekends), location (proximity to home), and the availability of a preferred potency (or formulation) as important.

While both males and females share many of the same considerations when obtaining cannabis, there are a few differences. For example, females (22%) were twice as likely as males (11%) to cite "sales support" as important, while proportionally more males placed a higher value on "anonymity and discretion" (19% of males versus 12% of females) and availability of the preferred strain of cannabis (20% of males versus 11% of females).

Males are more likely to report that they will use cannabis in next three months

One-quarter of males (25%) and 16% of females think that they will use cannabis in the next three months, higher than the 21% of males and 12% of females who currently consume cannabis.

Whether a person thinks they will use cannabis in the next few months tends to depend on whether they use currently or have used in the past. This is the case for both males and females.

Virtually all Canadians (99%) who reported having never consumed cannabis indicated that they will not use cannabis in the next three months. In contrast, most daily or almost daily (94%) and weekly (87%) users think that they will continue to consume cannabis over the next three months and at a similar pace.

Former (12%) and occasional (less than once a month) (27%) users were more likely to report that they will increase their consumption in the coming three months than people who have never used cannabis (1%).

Second quarter 2019: Almost five million Canadians report using cannabis

From mid-May to mid-June 2019, about 4.9 million or 16% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported using cannabis in the previous three months. This was unchanged from what was reported one year earlier (before legalization) for the provinces and from the last time estimates for the territorial capitals were collected.

In the second quarter, 24% of Nova Scotians and 20% of Albertans reported using cannabis in the previous three months, above the average for the rest of Canada (other provinces and territorial capitals combined). Cannabis use in the previous three months was also above the national average in all three territorial capitals: Whitehorse (24%), Yellowknife (30%) and Iqaluit (32%). Meanwhile, current use was lower than the national average in Quebec (10%).

Cannabis consumption in the second quarter of 2019 was essentially unchanged from the same quarter in 2018, prior to legalization. However, the number of Canadians aged 65 and older reporting cannabis use increased from 3% to 5% over this period, while cannabis use among 15- to 64-year-olds was stable (ranging from 10% to 25%, depending on the age group).

  Note to readers

The Cannabis Act (C-45) became law on October 17, 2018. To prepare for this change, Statistics Canada adapted the national statistical system to measure the social and economic impacts of legalized cannabis.

Statistics Canada has been conducting the National Cannabis Survey (NCS) every three months (quarterly) since February 2018. The main objective of the NCS is to monitor changes in cannabis-related behaviours during the period preceding and following legalization on October 17, 2018, of non-medical cannabis use by adults.

The NCS falls under the 'RapidStats' program being offered by the Centre for Social Data Integration and Development of Statistics Canada, to rapidly respond to pressing data needs.

The second quarter data for 2019 and 2018 were collected in the 10 provinces and the territorial capitals (Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit) in May and June of the corresponding year, while the first quarter 2019 survey was collected in the provinces only in February and March 2019.

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

The second quarter 2019 survey response rate was 46.9% and yielded a sample of 6,466. The corresponding figures for the second quarter 2018 survey was 51.3% (response rate) and 7,285 (sample). The first quarter 2019 survey had a 50.6% response rate and a sample of 5,686.

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

Data on current, former and no (never) cannabis use are based on responses to the following questions: "During the past three months, how often did you use cannabis?" and "Have you ever used or tried cannabis?" Current cannabis users were also classified according to how frequently they used cannabis in the three months before they were interviewed: once or twice (referred to as less than monthly), monthly, weekly, or daily or almost daily.

Persons reporting cannabis use were further separated into four groups based on responses to: "What is the main reason you use cannabis?" 1) non-medical, 2) medical use with a medical document, 3) medical use without a medical document, and 4) both medical use and non-medical use.

Use of 8 different cannabis products: dried (flower/leaf), oil cartridges/vape pens, hashish/kief, liquid concentrates, solid concentrates, edibles, other liquids, other (not specified) was based on selecting either a quantity or unit associated with each product. All respondents reporting cannabis use in the past three months were asked if they had used each product and to report the amount(s)–using a combination of units (e.g. grams) and numbers of units (e.g. 1). Cannabis consumers were considered to have used a product so long as either a valid quantity or valid unit was selected. Choosing this definition ensured that virtually all respondents who reported using cannabis had selected at least one product. The number of cannabis products (coded: 1, 2 or 3 or more) was then calculated for each respondent. The 61 respondents who neither selected at least one unit nor one unit of measure, were dropped.

Cannabis method was based on the response to: "In the past three months, which of the following methods did you use most often?" 1) Smoked; 2) vaped; 3) consumed in food or drink; 4) other.

Spending on cannabis was based on: "How much did you spend on cannabis in the past three months?"

Data on the source of cannabis are based on responses to the following question: "In the past three months, where did you get the cannabis you used?" Eleven response categories were provided and reduced to five for this analysis: 1) Grow – I grow or someone else grows; 2) Legal – authorized retailer or online from a licensed producer; 3) Illegal – Compassion club, dispensary or storefront, online from another source, acquaintance, or dealer; 4) Friends or family – family member or friend or shared around a group of friends; 5) Other.

In an effort to better understand the purchasing behaviours of cannabis consumers and because consumers can access cannabis from multiple sources, the data were reanalyzed to distinguish single source cannabis consumers from those reporting more than one.

Factors considered important when selecting a source to buy cannabis from were based on: "What are the three most important factors to you when selecting a source to buy cannabis?" Thirteen response categories, including an "other" category were provided. Because quality and safety can mean different things to different people, some examples were provided: free from mould, tested for pesticides, and reputable grower.

Anticipated use in the next three months was compared to current cannabis use levels in order to examine differences. Each respondent was classified as same, increase, or decrease depending on whether anticipated cannabis use in the next three month period matched, was lower or higher than current use.

Much of the analysis was conducted according to gender, which was based on the response to: "What is your gender?" 1) Male; 2) female; 3) gender diverse. Results for the gender diverse category are unreleasable due to small sample.

Preliminary analysis of second quarter results were estimated with and without data from the territorial capitals. Because the results did not change appreciably with the territories, all second quarter results presented include the territorial data.

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

For the combined analysis, the original sampling weights of provincial respondents were adjusted by a factor of two (because there are two quarters); no sampling weight adjustments are needed for territorial respondents as only second quarter data are available. By combining quarters, the analytical power of the survey is improved and the estimates reflect the average of the two quarters.

All differences between characteristics and the comparison groups discussed are statistically significant 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.

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.

Small sample sizes for some analyses may also have reduced the ability to reach statistical significance. Combining cycles and averaging results across quarters can improve statistical power and the stability of the estimates. As well, not all relevant covariates were available and it was sometimes necessary to use broader categories than would have been desirable.

Additional information

For more information regarding cannabis statistics, consult the Cannabis Stats 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.

For other information on cannabis, see


The infographic "National Cannabis Survey 2nd quarter, 2019," which is part of Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M), is now available.

Contact information

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