Article by Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun
Canadians of colour are somewhat more drawn to cannabis consumption than the general population, according to a giant consumer survey.
People of colour are more likely to have used cannabis in the past three months, more likely to believe it’s less harmful than alcohol and more likely to find cannabis marketing “trendy and innovative,” suggests a study of 5,000 adult Canadians by Vivintel. It does market research for businesses, including marijuana retailers.
“The white population actually under-indexes,” said the Vivintel research director, Rahul Sethi, explaining white Canadians tend to be moderately more skeptical than people of colour about the legalization of cannabis and the soft drug’s effects on health.
Two in 10 Canadians surveyed this winter by Vivintel said they had consumed cannabis in the past three months, almost two years after Canada became the first industrialized nation to legalize marijuana.
That rate of recent use rose to about three in 10 for Canadians of South Asian, Arab or Latin American backgrounds. Filipinos and ethnic Chinese were also slightly above the norm for cannabis consumption, while whites and Indigenous Peoples were moderately below average.
While about one in four Canadians agree with the statement “cannabis is better for me than alcohol,” that belief was stronger among South Asian, Black or Vietnamese Canadians and to some extent ethnic Chinese or Arab Canadians or Indigenous Peoples. Whites were a bit less inclined to think marijuana is preferable to alcohol.
Sethi, whose family immigrated to Canada from India when he six, was not surprised at how Canadians of South Asian and Arabic ancestry and other minority cultures are more open on average to cannabis consumption, despite most having roots in countries where marijuana possession remains a criminal offence.
“In India, cannabis is seen as a plant gifted by God. It’s been used for healing from way back when. The Hindu god Shiva is associated with cannabis,” said Sethi, a Hindu whose family came from the Punjab region of India.
The polling results also suggest Arab Canadians are dealing with two strongly contrasting cultural approaches to soft drugs, says Sethi, who added that he personally values cannabis for its health benefits, not for its high. He and his wife sometimes consume marijuana to help them sleep.
About seven in 10 Canadians believe that cannabis products “can offer wellness or therapeutic benefits.” Those results were relatively consistent along ethnic lines, but with Indigenous Peoples and Filipino Canadians showing a little more skepticism about the medical claims made by cannabis advocates.
A minority of Canadians think cannabis can be harmful, which echoes a position outlined by many medical and psychological researchers, especially in regard to use by the young. One in three Canadians agreed with the statement, “Cannabis is damaging to physical and/or mental health.”
Even though support for marijuana use is rising in Canada, people across ethnocultural groups struggle with the pros and cons of it, said Sethi, who has produced a 31-page report on cannabis marketing, which is available to business clients.
Taking the example of Arab Canadians, Sethi said. On one hand, many people of Arab origin are Muslim, a religion that forbids the use of alcohol and drugs. On the other hand, Sethi said, Arab custom often includes use of the “hookah,” an instrument for heating and smoking tobacco or sometimes cannabis.
Vivintel found almost one million Canadians over age 19 used cannabis for the first time only after it became legal.
The market research company did not have a breakdown on how Canada’s groundbreaking marijuana legislation was viewed among different ethnic groups.