Statistics Canada releases a bong full of new cannabis data

Men consume cannabis more than women; 42% of cannabis consumers still buy at least some from the black market

Men consume cannabis more than women, and the main consumption method for both genders is smoking | Shutterstock

Statistics Canada released a whack of statistics on August 15 that shed some insight into the almost five million Canadians who consumed cannabis during the first half of 2019.

Among the findings that were part of Statistics Canada’s National Cannabis Survey (NCS) were that more men consume cannabis than do women, and that men consume cannabis more frequently than women. Men also consume cannabis for non-medical reasons than do women.

Another big takeaway from the survey was that the black market appears to be shrinking. It noted that only 42% of Canadians who consumed cannabis said that they bought at least some of their cannabis from black-market dealers in the first half of the year. That does not mean, however, that the rest of the cannabis consumed came from legal sources. The survey said that only 48% said that they purchased at least some of their cannabis from legal sources. A sizeable 37% of respondents said that they used cannabis that they got from, or shared among, friends and family. As a result of not knowing where the cannabis that the friends and family provided came from, it is hard to be sure how much of a dent the government's legalization effort has made in the illicit market.

The stats also showed that males and females older than age 15 differ in how they obtain and consume cannabis products. Females, for example, more often reported getting cannabis from family and friends than their male counterparts, That may explain why fewer females said they paid for the cannabis they consume. The study didn’t go into how many people stole cannabis, although it noted that 4% got their cannabis in an unspecified way.

Another quirk in the findings was that females said that they are more likely to use an alternative method to consume cannabis, such as putting it on the skin or under the tongue. Males older than age 15 are more likely to report consuming dried cannabis and hashish.

To monitor cannabis consumption before and after Canada legalized cannabis last October, the nation’s number cruncher has been conducting the NCS every three months since 2018.

Read on for a more fulsome explanation of the findings.

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%), according to the NCS. 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 reported having tried cannabis in the past but are not current users.

Males more likely to use cannabis daily or almost daily

Statistics Canada said in its August 15 release that 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

Statistics Canada asked Canadians to say whether they used cannabis for medical purposes and had a medical document, for medical purposes without a medical document or simply for fun, or what some call recreational 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 it for both medical and non-medical reasons, and about one-fifth reported medical reasons (with or without medical documentation).

Meanwhile, 12% of females said that they consuming cannabis in the first half of 2019. Their reasons were fairly evenly split, between those who said it was for non-medical use, medical use or a mix of both.

Cannabis products and consumption methods

About 77% of Canadians who said they used cannabis during the first half of 2019 consumed dried cannabis, while 26% consumed edibles. Other reported ways of consuming cannabis were as liquid concentrates (20%), cannabis oil cartridges or vape pens (19%), and hashish or kief (16%).

More males (82%) said they consumed dried cannabis, compared with females (67%). Males (19%) were also more likely to have consumed hashish or kief, compared with females (12%).

While a majority of both males and females use dried cannabis, for 49% of males and 41% of females, it is the only form of cannabis that they consumed.

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

Smoking remains the most common method of consuming cannabis, with 68% of males and 62% of females choosing this method in the first half of 2019, according to Statistics Canada. 

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

Buying cannabis

Males are more likely to purchase cannabis while females are 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, according to the survey.

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

There was 42%, however, who said that they bought at least some of their cannabis from illegal sources, such as a drug dealer, while 37% said that they used cannabis that they got 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, while 4% reported another source, although Statistics Canada did not specify what that source might be.

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 revealed that 29% of all current users got their cannabis exclusively from legal sources.

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 said quality and safety was an important consideration when buying it, while 42% primarily considered price.

Other important factors when buying cannabis were accessibility, location and availability of a preferred potency.

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 being important, while proportionally more males (19%) placed a higher value on anonymity and discretion than did females (12%). More males (20%) said that availability of a preferred strain of cannabis was important than did females (11%.)

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

More males (25%) than females (16%) said they thought that they would use cannabis in the next three months. That is higher than the 21% of males and 12% of females who currently consume cannabis.

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 users (12%) and those who use cannabis less than once a month (27%) were more likely to report that they will increase their consumption in the coming three months than were 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, according to Statistics Canada.

This was unchanged from data collected from provinces a year ago, when recreational cannabis use was illegal. It is also unchanged from the last time estimates for from territorial capitals were collected.

In the second quarter of 2019, 24% of Nova Scotians and 20% of Albertans reported using cannabis in the previous three months. That is 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).