Canadians use more cannabis at higher rate than other countries

More Canadians reported having used cannabis than their international peers, says a recent survey from the Commonwealth Fund, a private US foundation.

The survey shows that 23% of Canadians reported using cannabis, compared to a 9% average for the 11 countries polled. However, the figure is similar for those in legal US states (20%).

These rates are higher than a Statistics Canada survey from 2019 showing about 18% of the population of Canada reporting cannabis use.

Reported rates of cannabis use were highest in the territories and Nova Scotia, followed by Alberta and British Columbia.

Based in the United States, the Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable populations.

The survey focused on the views and experiences of the general population age 18 and older.

Health experts in Canada say they welcome the information and look forward to more refined information as legalization evolves.

“The Commonwealth Fund’s survey shows that a quarter of Canadians reported using cannabis,” says Tracy Johnson, Director, Health System Analysis and Emerging Issues, Canadian Institute for Health Information. “Canada is the only country surveyed where cannabis is legal — other than a few states in the U.S. — and it only became legal for recreational use in 2018.

“It will be important to continue to study Canadians’ cannabis use and see how it affects their health in the future. While we have standards that define heavy drinking — 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men on 1 occasion — there are no standards that define “heavy” cannabis use.”

Rita Notarandrea, the CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says the survey helps better understand usage rates to see if legalization increases or decreases use, and the impact on mental health. She notes substance use has increased during COVID-19.

“The Commonwealth Fund’s survey provides an important baseline for substance use in Canada,” says Notarandrea. “Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen some of these numbers increase — especially for those with mental health and substance use concerns. With further lockdowns happening throughout the country, this is something we need to be mindful of as we work to reduce overall health harms in Canada. We encourage people to refer to the low-risk drinking guidelines and to remember the importance of seeking help, lower-risk substance use and positive coping methods as we continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic on our substance use and mental health.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing essential health information to all Canadians.

The survey also showed that 1 out of 4 Canadians reported heavy drinking at least once a month and 5% of Canadians reported having used electronic vaping devices (e-cigarettes). The rate was highest among 18- to 34-year-olds (11%) and lowest among those 35 and older (3%).

Q10  During the past 12 months, have you used marijuana or cannabis? 

BY COUNTRY, 2020 
CountryYes (%)No (%)Not sure (%)Declined to answer (%)Total (count)
Australia9.590.10.10.32,201
Canada23.176.30.00.65,297
France6.393.50.10.13,028
Germany3.895.80.00.41,004
Netherlands8.491.40.20.0753
New Zealand9.190.40.40.11,003
Norway4.495.20.30.2607
Sweden2.996.00.01.12,513
Switzerland6.793.20.00.12,284
U.K.8.291.00.50.22,090
U.S.15.784.30.00.02,488
BY PROVINCE/TERRITORY, 2020




Province/territoryYes (%)No (%)Not sure (%)Declined to answer (%)Total (count)
N.L.24.373.00.02.7252
P.E.I.24.174.90.01.1251
N.S.30.669.40.00.0250
N.B.22.277.10.00.7250
Que.14.485.30.00.31,000
Ont.24.374.90.00.81,507
Man.17.481.30.01.3250
Sask.26.672.60.00.9250
Alta.29.070.80.20.0273
B.C.28.571.30.00.2261
Y.T.30.568.10.60.8253
N.W.T.32.167.90.00.1250
Nun.41.558.50.00.0250
Source: https://www.cihi.ca/en/commonwealth-fund-survey-2020


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