Open cannabis laws did not spark a feared bout of reefer madness in Canada.
Indeed, consumption spikes since July 2018 (after passage of the Cannabis Act) were more like marijuana molehills, according to a large new survey of pot usage and attitudes across the country.
Despite concerns that cannabis use might skyrocket, the survey of 2,002 adults found that just 3 per cent of Canadians tried cannabis for the first time since legalization, with just 18 per cent of the population having used it in the last year. Legalization came into force Oct. 17.
“We’ve got a minor increase in usage (and) we don’t have a strong expressed intent amongst those who haven’t used, to use,” Craig Worden, president of the Toronto polling and research firm Pollara Strategic Insights, said of the survey results.
“So there aren’t a lot of people sitting around who are saying ‘yeah, that’s going to happen for me and I can’t wait,’ ” he said.
And of the new users the law attracted, most say they will likely be occasional rather than frequent pot participants, Worden added.
It’s the company’s fourth comprehensive cannabis survey of Canadians covering the lead-up to and aftermath of legalization.
“And we actually did see in our polling prior to legalization that there (were) fairly high expectations amongst the general public that usage would spike,” Worden said. “You can (also) see in the tracking that quite large proportions of the population were expecting large negative impacts upon Canada overall.”
Yet respondents to the latest survey mostly said they’d noticed few signs of worsening road impairment, hard drug usage or other societal ills come to pass, Worden said.
“People have seen that the sky has not fallen and that these concerns have definitely dropped significantly (compared to) how they looked prior to legalization,” he said. “It’s quite a difference (what) actually making it legal has had on people’s attitudes.”
Approval of legalization itself grew by eight points — to 43 per cent — while disapproval was down eight points to 34 per cent. General acceptance was at 64 per cent in the poll, which was given exclusively to the Star.
“And on that score what really stands out to me is how approval has shifted in Quebec which was always the locus of disapproval on this policy,” Worden says.
“We were always tracking Quebecers at about 22- to 25-per-cent approval in the years prior to legalization, and after legalization we have 37 per cent, quite an increase.”
In Ontario, approval sits at 43 per cent, with disapproval lagging 10 points back.