Abstract

Background

The Canadian federal government has committed to legalize, regulate, and restrict non-medical cannabis use by adults in 2018. To prepare for monitoring the health, social and economic impacts of this policy change, a greater understanding of the long-term trends in the prevalence of cannabis use in Canada is needed.

Data and methods

Nine national surveys of the household population collected information about cannabis use during the period from 1985 through 2015. These surveys are examined for comparability. The data are used to estimate past-year (current) cannabis use (total, and by sex and age). Based on the most comparable data, trends in use from 2004 through 2015 are estimated.

Results

From 1985 through 2015, past-year cannabis use increased overall. Analysis of comparable data from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey and the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey for the 2004-to-2015 period suggests that use was stable among 15- to 17-year-old males, decreased among 15- to 17-year-old females and among 18- to 24-year-olds (both sexes), and increased among people aged 25 or older.

Interpretation

According to data from national population surveys, since 2004, cannabis use was stable or decreased among youth, and rose among adults. Results highlight the importance of consistent monitoring of use in the pre-and post-legalization periods.

Keywords

Cochran-Armitage test, controlled and illegal drugs, marijuana, risk behaviour, substance use, trend analysis

Findings

The Canadian federal government has committed to legalize, regulate, and restrict the non-medical use of cannabis in 2018. This policy change has increased the need for an understanding of trends in the prevalence of use before and after legalization. [Full Text]

Authors

Michelle Rotermann (michelle.rotermann@canada.ca) is with the Health Analysis Division and Ryan MacDonald is with the Economic Analysis Division at Statistics Canada.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Cannabis consumption differs by age, sex, and region.
  • The prevalence of past-year cannabis use tends to be highest at ages 18 to 24 and higher among males than among females.
  • Differences in survey methodology and design can affect estimates.

What does this study add?

  • From 1985 through 2015, nine national surveys collected information about cannabis use in Canada.
  • Trends in cannabis use for the 2004-to-2015 period can be examined with data from the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey and the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey.
  • Since 2004, the prevalence of cannabis use remained stable or decreased among 15- to 24-year-olds, but increased among people aged 25 or older.

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