In October 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis use nationwide. This decision sparked both excitement and controversy, as many Canadians were unsure of what this new legislation would mean for their country.
Nearly five years later, a recent study conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights aimed to track public and user perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours related to cannabis legalization in Canada.
The study, conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights, surveyed over 2,000 Canadians and explored a variety of topics, including public approval of legalization, concerns surrounding its implementation, and changes in usage patterns.
The purpose of this study is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how attitudes towards cannabis have evolved since its legalization in October 2018. By tracking these perceptions and behaviors, the study offers valuable insights into the impact of cannabis legalization on Canadian society. It also provides important information for policymakers and industry leaders as they continue to shape regulations and policies around recreational cannabis use.
Key Findings from the Study
Since its legalization in 2018, recreational cannabis has garnered a significant amount of attention and debate. While some have championed the decision as a progressive step towards destigmatizing cannabis and creating new economic opportunities, others have expressed concerns about potential health and safety risks.
According to the Pollara survey, public approval for cannabis legalization stands at 72%, with 52% expressing outright approval and 20% being ambivalent the study notes that these levels have remained steady since 2020
52% of Canadians in the study feel there has been an increase in cannabis usage since legalization – however, this is far lower than the proportion expecting an increase prior to legalization in 2018 (69%)
Since the five years after cannabis legalization, nearly half (49%) of Canadians now say they’ve used cannabis at least once in their lifetime, and over a quarter (27%) of Canadians report using cannabis in the past 12 months – up just 2 points since July 2022, and up 9 points since March 2019 (5 months post-legalization), and double (+14) the levels seen immediately pre-legalization.
The survey also found that those who have used cannabis before and after legalization are more likely to have reduced (30%) than increased (20%) their frequency of use now.
Flower remains the most frequently used format (38%) amongst past 12-month users, followed by edibles (26%)
Eight in ten past 12-month users report buying legal cannabis, with two-thirds (65%) claiming that they buy through legal means only. Reported Illegal purchases saw a drop, too, from 7% to 4%. Although past year users still tend to view legal prices as higher (36%) or the same (17%) as illegal prices, perceptions of higher prices remain significantly lower than in 2019-2021.
The Pollara survey results highlight a key difference between the cannabis markets in Canada and the United States – consumer comfort with legal products. While the illicit market for cannabis remains strong in the US due to lower prices and less regulation, it seems that Canadians have embraced the legal market more readily.
The survey found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of cannabis consumers in Canada reported buying from the legal market. This is a significant increase from previous years and suggests that Canadians are becoming more comfortable with purchasing cannabis through legal means.
Compared to buyers in the US, who often have to navigate a complex and ever-changing regulatory landscape, it seems as if Canadian consumers may feel more at ease purchasing from the legal market. This is reflected in the results of the survey, which show a decrease in illegal purchases among Canadian cannabis consumers.
These findings support the trend seen in the past few years, where the legal cannabis market in Canada has continued to grow and gain acceptance. With this increased consumer comfort, it’s likely that we will see further growth and development in the Canadian cannabis industry.
Overall, the results of this survey provide valuable insights into the shifting attitudes and behaviors towards cannabis in Canada, further solidifying its place as a key player in the global cannabis market.
So while it may have taken some time for Canadians to adjust to legalization, it seems that they are now embracing legal cannabis products more than ever before. This bodes well for the future of the industry and its potential to contribute to Canada’s economy and reputation.
You can find the breakdown of all the stats mentioned above and many more from the Pollara study here.
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