By Michelle Rotermann
Background: The Canadian government legalized non-medical cannabis use by adults in October 2018 in order to minimize associated harms and re-direct profits from criminals.
Data and methods: Seven quarters of (NCS) data were combined into two groups: pre- and post-legalization periods - to examine changes in: cannabis use (overall, daily or almost daily (DAD)), source of product, driving after consumption and riding in a vehicle with a driver who had consumed.
Results: By 2019, overall cannabis use had increased (16.8% vs. 14.9%), particularly among: males, adults aged 25 and older, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Alberta. DAD use, at 6.0%, remained stable, as did the prevalence of driving within 2 hours of consumption (13.2%). Riding in a vehicle with a driver who had used declined, overall (from 5.3% to 4.2%) and among: females, persons aged 25 and older, and in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Alberta. Where Canadians reported obtaining their cannabis also changed, with increasing percentages reporting getting some or all of their cannabis from legal sources, and fewer using illegal sources or relying on friends/family. Some provinces experienced more change than others.
Interpretation: While too soon to observe the longer-term impacts associated with the Cannabis Act, early indications based on data collected in the months surrounding enactment suggests some cautions and also some assurances. Ongoing monitoring will be essential particularly given the 2.0 Act modifications and the ever-changing provincial retail and regulatory landscapes.