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New Data Shows Canadian Cannabis Legalization Has Driven Increase In Consumption, But Decrease In Illicit Market Sourcing

New research based on figures from the Canadian government have shown that while legalisation has led to an increase in cannabis use, the ‘legal market is increasingly displacing the illicit cannabis market’ in the country.

According to new data published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, the percentage of Canadians purchasing cannabis from the legal market increased from 37% in 2019 to 69% in 2022.

Based on data from the Canadian Cannabis Survey, an annual web-based survey which has been given to Canadians aged 16 and above since cannabis was legalised in 2018, the results suggest that cannabis consumption was around 1.4 times higher in 2022 than in 2018.

Pre-legalization in 2018, 21.9% of people surveyed said they had consumed cannabis in the last 12 months.

This figure rose to 24.6% immediately afterwards in 2019, rising again to 26.9% in 2020, but falling slightly the following year to 25.2%. In 2022, this figure peaked at 27.2%.

Fig. 1. Usual source of cannabis for non-medical purposes, among past 12-month cannabis consumers (n = 14,826)

It was a similar case with ‘daily or almost daily (DAD) use, rising from 5.4% pre-legalization to 6.8% in 2022.

The type of product consumed also changed significantly over the five-year period. Dried flower, for instance, fell from a 81.9% in 2018 to 65.3% in 2022.

Hash consumption also decreased by 26% to 17.7% over the same period, while consumption of edibles rose from 41.1% to 52.7% and vape usage doubled to 33.3%.

In 2019, the first year of legalization, 37% of respondents say they purchased cannabis from the legal market, while 16% said they purchased it illegally.

By 2022, the number of respondents purchasing cannabis legally had risen to 69%, while thise purchasing illegally fell to 4%.

Commenting on the studies’ findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These data indicate that the legal, regulated cannabis market is displacing the underground marketplace. Over time, consumers are becoming more comfortable with and more reliant upon licensed retailers – who typically offer greater convenience, product quality, and safety.”


Goodman S, Dann MJ, Fataar F, Abramovici H. How have cannabis use and related indicators changed since legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes? Results of the Canadian Cannabis Survey 2018-2022. Int J Drug Policy. 2024 Mar 22;127:104385. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2024.104385. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 38520961.

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