Article by CBC News
Nearly one in five Canadians said they intended to try cannabis or increase their use following legalization, according to analysis from researchers at McMaster University that also found people younger in age were more likely to do so.
Those are some of the results found during a closer look at Statistics Canada’s 2018 National Cannabis Survey, which gathered the responses of more than 17,000 Canadians between February and September 2018 — the month before recreational weed was legalized.
While cannabis has now been legal for more than nine months, Jason Busse, associate director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster, says it’s important to look back, before legalization.
“We now have a baseline to work from,” he explained. “We know what the current utilization is, we know what people say they’re going to do and so we can track forward to see what the actual increase is post-legalization.”
The research found an estimated 12 per cent of respondents said they planned to try cannabis after legalization, with another six per cent indicating they intended to increase their pot use.
“We’re looking at a very large absolute increase in the rate of cannabis use among Canadians,” said Busse, adding that’s a potential cause for concern because increased recreational pot use is “associated with higher rates of motor vehicle accidents” and “some patterns of some increases of people presenting to emergency departments.”
Research can identify at-risk groups
Among those most likely to try or use more cannabis were people between the ages of 15 and 24. They were four times more likely to do so than people age 65 or older, according to the McMaster analysis.
That’s significant, Busse says, because there has been “some concern” about younger people using cannabis “because of potential implications with triggering early-onset psychosis.”
But while there are possible concerns, the professor pointed out the research can help lawmakers identify at-risk targets for education.
People who said they had used cannabis in the past three months were also three times more likely to do so than those who hadn’t, according to the analysis.
And, people who reported their mental health was poor or fair were twice as likely to try or increase cannabis use compared to those who said their mental health was good or excellent.
That’s another area of interest for researchers like Busse.
“We’re not sure if they’re pursuing cannabis because they’re looking to treat some of their symptoms,” he said.