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Cannabis Use For Non-medical Purposes Among Canadians (Aged 16+)

Data over the past three years

The Cannabis Act is a national framework to control the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. The Cannabis Act and accompanying regulations came into force on October 17, 2018. To help evaluate the impact of the legalization and regulation of cannabis, Health Canada has been conducting the Canadian Cannabis Survey (CCS) to better understand how Canadians view and use cannabis. The results from the 2020 CCS cycle are the first to reflect a full 12-month period following the coming into force of the Cannabis Act.

Between the 2018, 2019 and 2020 cycles of the CCS, there were significant changes in the cannabis marketFootnote 1, the emergence of vaping-associated lung illness (VALI) in August 2019, and the implementation of public health measures across Canada to slow the spread of COVID-19. These changes and events may have also impacted cannabis use behaviours.

When recruited, CCS respondents were informed that the survey was about cannabis. This information may have created a participation bias in that those who use cannabis may have been more likely to complete the survey. For this and other methodological reasons, the CCS may provide estimates for cannabis use that are higher than other Canadian population level surveys, such as the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS) and the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CSTADS), which are specifically designed to measure prevalence of use.

Key findings on cannabis use for non-medical purposes from 2018, 2019 and 2020 are presented to examine self-reported changes since legalization and regulationFootnote 2Footnote 3. All results refer to cannabis use for non-medical purposes among Canadians aged 16 years and older.

Dive into the Data

Figure 1. in

Use the map below to discover key cannabis use indicators in CanadaFootnote 4.

Canada

Cannabis use in the past 12 months increased/decreased/was unchanged from 22% in 2018 to 25% in 2019 and increased/decreased/was unchanged between 2019 and 2020 (27%).

Source: Canadian Cannabis Survey. Results refer to cannabis use for non-medical purposes among Canadians aged 16+.

Figure 1: Text description
Cannabis use in Canada, 2018 to 2020
Canada 2018 2019 2020 Significant change
* Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020

Cannabis leaf

Cannabis use and frequencyFootnote 4

About a quarter of Canadians reported cannabis use in the past 12 months

  • Overall, past 12-month reported cannabis use increased from 22% in 2018 to 25% in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 27%.
Figure 2. Cannabis use in the past 12 months, by sex and age group, 2018 to 2020
  • * Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
  • ^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020
Text Description

Figure 2: Cannabis use in the past 12 months, by sex and age group, 2018 to 2020

Table 2
2018 2019 2020
Overall*^ 22% 25% 27%
Males*^ 26% 29% 31%
Females*^ 18% 21% 23%
16-19 years* 36% 44% 44%
20-24 years* 44% 51% 52%
25+ years*^ 19% 21% 24%
* Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020

Past 30-day reported cannabis use increased

  • Overall, past 30-day reported cannabis use increased from 15% in 2018 to 17% in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 18%.
  • In 2020, past 30-day reported use was highest among males (21%) and people aged 20-24 years (36%).

Frequency of reported cannabis use daily or almost daily remained unchanged

  • 25% of Canadians who used cannabis in the past 12 months reported using cannabis daily or almost daily in 2020, unchanged from 24% in 2019, and unchanged between 2019 and 2018 (25%).
  • In 2020, daily or almost daily use was highest among males (29%) and people aged 25+ years (26%).

Average age of initiation increased

  • Overall, average age of initiation increased from 18.9 years in 2018 to 19.2 years in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 20.0 years.
  • In 2020, average age of initiation was 19.5 years for males and 20.4 years for females.

Cannabis use methods

Cannabis consumption method and sources

While consuming cannabis by smoking decreased, it remained the most common consumption method

  • Smoking cannabis decreased from 89% in 2018 to 84% in 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020 to 79%.
  • Eating/drinking cannabis increased from 43% in 2018 to 48% in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 53%.
  • Vaping cannabis increased from 33% in 2018 to 36% in 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020 to 31%.

More Canadians purchased cannabis for non-medical purposes from a legal storefront

  • In 2020, 41% of those who used cannabis in the past 12 months indicated their usual source of cannabis was a legal storefront, an increase from 24% in 2019.
  • In both 2019 and 2020, 13% indicated a legal online source as their usual source of cannabis.

Average monthly spending on cannabis in the past 12 months remained unchanged

  • The amount typically spent per month decreased from $73 in 2018 to $64 in 2019 and was unchanged between 2019 and 2020 ($67).

Survey on cannabis

Knowledge and attitudes

9 out of 10 Canadians felt cannabis use can be habit forming in both 2019 and 2020

Figure 3: Percentage that felt cannabis use can be habit forming, 2018 to 2020
  • * Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
  • ^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020
Text Description

Figure 3: Percentage that felt cannabis use can be habit forming, 2018 to 2020

Table 3
2018 2019 2020
Overall* 82% 90% 90%
People who used cannabis (past 12 months)*^ 71% 87% 93%
People who did not use cannabis (past 12 months)*^ 85% 91% 89%
* Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020

Perceived moderate or great risk of vaping cannabis regularly increased

  • Overall, perceived risk of vaping cannabis regularly increased from 70% in 2018 to 72% in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 75%.
Figure 4: Perceived moderate or great risk, among those who used cannabis in the past 12 months, by consumption method, 2018 to 2020
  • * Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
  • ^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020
Text Description

Figure 4: Perceived moderate or great risk, among those who used cannabis in the past 12 months, by consumption method, 2018 to 2020

table 4
2018 2019 2020
Smoking*^ 40% 46% 50%
Eating* 34% 40% 40%
Vaping*^ 38% 43% 54%
* Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020


Driving under the influence

Driving and cannabis use

83% of Canadians believed cannabis use impairs one's ability to drive in 2020

  • Among those who used cannabis in the past 12 months, this belief increased from 61% in 2018 to 69% in 2019 and increased between 2019 and 2020 to 77%.

Fewer people were passengers in a vehicle driven by someone who had recently used cannabis, in the past 12 months

  • Overall, being a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who recently used cannabis decreased from 13% in 2018 to 11% in 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020 to 9%.
  • Among those who used cannabis in the past 12 months, it decreased from 44% in 2018 to 35% in 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020 to 25%.

Fewer people operated a vehicle after cannabis use in the past 12 monthsFootnote 5

  • Overall, driving a vehicle after cannabis use decreased from 27% in 2018 to 24% in 2019 and decreased between 2019 and 2020 to 19%.
Figure 5: Operated a vehicle after cannabis use in the past 12 monthsFootnote 5, 2018 to 2020
  • * Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
  • ^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020
Text Description

Figure 5: Operated a vehicle after cannabis use in the past 12 monthsFootnote 4, 2018 to 2020

table 5
2018 2019 2020
Males*^ 33% 28% 24%
Females^ 18% 18% 13%
16-19 years 22% 17% 18%
20-24 years* 28% 20% 19%
25+ years^ 27% 25% 19%
* Significantly different between 2018 and 2019
^ Significantly different between 2019 and 2020

For additional details:

Footnotes

Footnote 1

On October 17 2018, the Cannabis Act came into force, making it legal to obtain dried or fresh cannabis, cannabis plant, cannabis plant seeds and cannabis oil only on the legal market. On October 17, 2019, it became legal to produce and sell three new classes of cannabis products, namely cannabis extracts (including cannabis vaping products), edible cannabis, and cannabis topicals. These products entered the legal market at the end of December 2019. Therefore, questions that refer to the past 12 months cover a period both before and after the legal sale of these products began.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

Tests for statistical significance compared data between pairs of years (2018/2019 and 2019/2020). Results from this approach do not necessarily reflect overall trends for the three-year period.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

All reported increases and decreases in the text are statistically significant changes unless it is stated that the percentage is “unchanged”. At times the text may state that the difference is unchanged, even though the numbers are not identical. This occurs when the difference between numbers is not statistically significant. In graphs and tables, statistical significance is indicated by a symbol. For additional details about the survey and methodology, refer to 2018 Canadian Cannabis Survey, the 2019 Canadian Cannabis Survey and the 2020 Canadian Cannabis Survey.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

When recruited, respondents were informed that the survey was about cannabis. This may have created a participation bias, where people who use cannabis may have been more likely to complete the survey. For this and other methodological reasons, the CCS prevalence estimates for cannabis use may be higher than reported in other Canadian population level surveys.

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

The question regarding driving after cannabis use changed from 2018 to 2019 and 2020. In 2018, the question only asked if the person drove within two hours of any cannabis use. In 2019 and 2020, two questions were asked: drove within two hours of smoking/vaping cannabis and drove within four hours of ingesting cannabis. In order to compare with 2018, responses for both 2019 and 2020 questions were combined to capture driving within two hours of smoking/vaping and/or within four hours of ingesting cannabis.

Return to footnote 5 referrer

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