Two Out of Three Canadian Stoners Choose Legal Weed Over Black Market Bud, Survey Says
Health Canada's new survey also indicates that legalization has not increased teen cannabis use, “high-risk” pot use, or stoned driving.
Published on December 21, 2022

Two-thirds of Canadian cannabis consumers say they no longer buy weed from the black market, according to a new Health Canada survey.

Between April and June of this year, health officials surveyed around 10,000 Canadian cannabis users aged 16 or older for their annual Canadian Cannabis Survey. This year, 67% of respondents said they had not obtained cannabis from illegal channels during the past 12 months, and only 15% said that they hadn't bought weed from legal dispensaries in the past year. Similarly, 48% of respondents said that they “always” purchase cannabis from legal retailers.

And although that percentage is slightly less than half, it's still a massive improvement over prior years. Back in 2019, one year after Canada legalized weed, more than 85% of Canadian stoners said that they still bought their weed from the black market. Initially, legal dispensaries didn't have enough bud to meet the massive demand, and most legal products cost twice as much as their illicit alternatives. But as more legal retailers opened their doors and prices finally started to drop, more customers started switching to legal sources.

By 2020, slightly more than a third (37%) of Canadians were exclusively buying legal weed, Health Canada reports. That percentage climbed to 43% last year, and inched up another 3%  this year. Meanwhile, the proportion of respondents who say they always purchase weed from illegal dealers fell from 9% in 2020 to 7% last year, and finally to 5% this year. The percentage of respondents who said they “usually” bought weed from an illegal online store also sank to 2% this year, down from 4% in 2019.

The shift from illicit sources to legal retailers is great news for Canada's cannabis industry, but much like their neighbors in US adult-use states, Canadians are also spending less money on weed this year. This year's survey reports that the average Canadian typically spent around C$65 (US$48) a month on bud, down from C$75 ($55) in 2021. Even so, more money is still going to the legal market: on average, Canadians spent C$65 on legal weed and C$19 on illegal pot each month, down from C$55 and C$31 last year.

The new survey also debunks many of the common myths that prohibitionists continue to spread about cannabis. Despite constant fears that legalization will increase teens' access to weed, the rate of past-year cannabis use among teens aged 16-19 is at the same level as it was before weed was legal. The survey also shows that fears over stoned driving are also unwarranted. Health Canada reports that the proportion of Canadians who drive while high actually decreased after legalization, and these rates remain equally low this year.

And while anti-pot groups constantly warn that increased access to high-potency THC products will boost rates of “cannabis use disorder” or other mental health issues, the data proves them wrong again. The percentage of cannabis users classified at a “high risk” of developing dependency issues has remained constant since 2018. Rates of daily or near-daily cannabis use have also held steady since 2018, even among teens aged 16 to 19.

Health Canada also asked respondents to share their favorite methods of cannabis consumption. As usual, smoking flower remains the most popular, followed closely by edibles and vaping. That ranking is starting to shift, though – the proportion of respondents who say they prefer smoking has declined steadily since 2018, while the percentage who prefer vaping has been growing since 2021.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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