Canadian Perceptions of Cannabis Have Changed Little in 2021

The fifth edition of the “Canada Cannabis Survey” has just been released, and the 2021 results are hardly surprising. Once the results were tallied up, the big finding was that the legal market had overtaken the illicit one, with 53% of Canadians reporting they’d purchased from a legal store, up from 41% in 2020. Aside from that, little has changed compared to the previous years.

The “Canada Cannabis Survey 2021″ is the fifth of its kind, with the first survey of Canadian cannabis attitudes having been released in late 2017. The survey asks a sample of Canadians a number of questions about cannabis, such as their knowledge and opinions about cannabis use and cannabis laws, knowledge of legal sources, cannabis and driving, cannabis and pregnancy, cannabis use and cultivation at home, and cannabis for medical purposes among several other topics.

When the results were tallied, the finding was that little has changed since 2021. However, while Canadian attitudes towards cannabis might not be changing, plenty of other things are. The latest legal developments and research findings are all covered in our free-to-download cannabis news app.

Stable Cannabis Acceptability

Canadians consider cannabis use to be the second-lowest perceived risk, behind alcohol, but a healthier choice than using tobacco or nicotine. Occasional cannabis use is also considered more socially acceptable than regular alcohol use. Smoking and eating cannabis is considered slightly more socially acceptable than vaping cannabis. Tobacco and e-cigarettes have the lowest level of social acceptability among these three broad categories.

Overall, 89% of those surveyed believe that cannabis use can be addictive. The majority of those (93%) who reported using cannabis in the past 12 months think that cannabis can be addictive. A majority (88%) of those who have not used cannabis also think that cannabis can be addictive.

Slight Decline in Canadian Users

25% of Canadians report having tried cannabis in the past 12 months, down slightly from 27% in 2020. Males were once again more likely to use cannabis than females, but self-reported use by males has declined slightly, as has self-reported use by Canadians aged 16 to 24.

14% of Canadians aged 16 and older also reported using cannabis for medical purposes, but only 22% reported using it with the permission of a health care professional.

Those born in Canada are about twice as likely to use cannabis as those who emigrated to Canada, and use is about twice as high among those who identify as gay, bisexual, or “other sexuality” as among those who identify as heterosexual.

Those enrolled in school are more likely (35%) to report using than those who report not being enrolled in school (25%). Those who reported working at a job or business in the past week or taking a vacation were slightly more likely to use cannabis than those not working at a job or business (28% vs. 21%).

Canadians with a graduate degree were less likely to use cannabis than those without a graduate degree, 17% vs. 24%.

Among those who reported increased cannabis use due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians under the age of 25 reported a greater increase in use.

25% of those 25 years of age and older reported increased cannabis use, compared to 46% of those aged 16 to 19 and 40% of those aged 20 to 24. At the same time, 21% of those aged 25 and older reported using less cannabis, compared with 27% of those aged 16-19 and 25% of those aged 20-24.

Once again, most Canadians who use cannabis reported using it less than one day per month, 33% of users, while 19% reported daily use. 27% reported using from one to six days a week.

Most cannabis users (72%) reported being stoned or high for one to four hours on a day of use, while 15% reported being stoned for five or more hours a day while using.

Canadian Cannabis Users Are Starting Later

The age of cannabis initiation has also continued to increase slightly since legalization. In a 2017 survey, the average age of first introduction to cannabis was 18.6. In 2020, it was 20 years old and in 2021, it was 20.4 years old.

Cannabis is otherwise legal in different Canadian provinces at different ages, either at 18, 19 or 21.

Smoking remains the most common form of consumption (74%), although this is down from 79% in 2020, while vaping has increased from 24% in 2020 to 28% in 2021. Cannabis edibles were the second most popular form of consumption amongst Canadians, at 54%. Those who reported drinking cannabis doubled from 2020, from 7% to 15%. 22% reported using cannabis oil or capsules, a new figure in 2021.

Among Canadians who vaporize cannabis, vaporization of cannabis extracts increased from 60% to 68%, vaporization of dried cannabis flower decreased from 65% to 54%.

Men were slightly more likely than women to use cannabis flower or concentrates, while women were slightly more likely to use edibles and topicals.

Legal market overtakes illegal

58% of Canadians who reported using cannabis said they would be more willing to disclose publicly if they use it, up from 51% in 2020.

53% of Canadians reported making a purchase from a legal store, up from 41% in 2020. People were less likely to get cannabis from a friend or legal online source, or from an illegal store or online source or “dealer.”

Of those who reported using cannabis, 43% said they only get their supply from the legal market, an increase from 37% in 2020. 63% reported never using an illicit source, up from 55% in 2020.

A higher percentage (43%) reported that they always source from a legal/approved source in 2021 than in 2020 (37%). There was also a higher percentage (63%) indicating they never source from an illegal/unlicensed source in 2021 compared to 2020 (55%).

Among those who buy from the illicit market, most (59%) Canadians say they get it from someone they know, while 20% say they get it from an illicit online store. 20% also report getting cannabis from a “dealer. Only 11% report getting it from an unlicensed retail store, although it is possible that this number is higher because some consumers are under the impression that illicit stores are actually operating legally.

The average Canadian spends between $40 and $100 CAD per month on cannabis.

Among consumers who reported using cannabis for medical purposes, those who reported obtaining it from legal stores increased from 44% in 2020 to 53% in 2021, and those who obtained it from a legal online source increased from 23% to 38%.

Another 21% obtained it from a licensed producer through the Canadian medical system. 13% said they grew it or had it grown for them under a designated production license, as in 2020.

Of the Canadians who obtained cannabis directly from a licensed producer, 77% said they intend to continue doing so even if non-medical cannabis stores are available.

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(Photo by Dan Newman on Unsplash)

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