Canada: Far Fewer Consumers Accessing Illegally Sourced Cannabis Following Enactment of Adult-Use Legalization

Ottawa, Canada: Significantly fewer Canadians are obtaining cannabis products from illicit market sources, according to data published in the journal Health Reports.

An investigator assessed marijuana use patterns among Canadians for the three-year period immediately prior to the enactment of adult-use legalization and for the two-year period immediately thereafter. 

In 2020, nearly 70 percent of cannabis consumers who participated in the study reported obtaining cannabis from a legal source, up from 47 percent in 2019. (Because the survey included respondents ages 15 and older, some subjects would be unable to obtain cannabis from any legal sources – which require users to be at least 18 years of age.)  

One of the goals of legalization was the elimination (or substantial reduction) of the cannabis black (illegal) market and consequently keeping profits from criminals and organized crime,” the author wrote. “According to this study, there is some evidence that this may be working.”

Marijuana use among those ages 18 to 24 remained largely unchanged following legalization. However, the self-reported use of cannabis by those ages 25 and older has increased, the study found. Consistent with prior marijuana consumption studies, the majority of consumers (71 percent) acknowledged inhaling cannabis flower products. 

The author concluded: “This study spans three years – from before legalization to about two years after. It provides a picture of the law’s impact on cannabis use and related behaviors given the more established legal cannabis industry better equipped to compete with the black market on price, convenience and selection. Findings demonstrated that change is continuing, and, as before, some cautions and some assurances remain.”

Full text of the study, “Looking back from 2020: How cannabis use and related behaviors in Canada changed,” appears in Health Reports.