New figures from Statistics Canada show that while the majority of cannabis users did not increase their usage of cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic, about one-third of users did. Stress, boredom and social isolation were all identified as some potential reasons for increased consumption.
The federal agency also notes that such increases may also simply be connected to legalization and increased availability. Consumers may also simply feel more comfortable admitting to their usage in the wake of legalization.
Although the majority (54%) of people who had previously consumed cannabis say they did not increase their use during the pandemic, reported consumption levels did increase in some demographics.
In a January 2021 survey panel, 16% of Canadians reported consuming cannabis at least once during the previous 30 days. Of those Canadians who had previously consumed cannabis, more than one in three (34%) said their consumption had increased, compared with their usage prior to the pandemic, while 12% reported a decrease in use.
Of those Canadians aged 15 to 29 who had previously consumed cannabis, 43% reported increasing their consumption during the pandemic, compared to only 20% of respondents aged 50 to 64 and 22% of those aged 65 or older.
Among those whose consumption had not changed, 25% had consumed cannabis five or more days per week in the previous 30 days, compared with 35% of those whose consumption had increased.
Stress, boredom and social isolation were identified by poll respondents as some potential reasons for increased consumption. For example, 23% among those who “never” or “hardly ever” felt a lack of companionship since the start of the pandemic, compared with 45% of those who “often” or “always” felt this.
The most frequently given reasons for increased consumption were stress (65%), boredom (58%) and loneliness (39%). Increased opportunity (e.g., lack of a regular schedule, at home more often) was also indicated by 38% of respondents and 29% mentioned ease of access (e.g., increase in retail stores and online shops, delivery, curbside pickup).
About 12% of consumers say they decreased their usage during the pandemic. The three most commonly cited reasons for this were personal choice, such as dislike of the effects of cannabis (64%), followed by decreased opportunities for socialization (28%) and personal responsibilities (e.g. family or work obligations, too busy) (16%).
Stats Canada provided similar figures for alcohol use in Canada during the pandemic, showing the majority of Canadians who had previously consumed alcohol or cannabis (54% in both cases) did not change compared with the pre-pandemic period.
Of those who had previously consumed alcohol, nearly one-quarter (24%) said their consumption had increased during the pandemic, while almost as many (22%) said their consumption had decreased. Of those who had previously consumed cannabis, more than one-third (34%) said their consumption had increased during the pandemic. Respondents indicated that stress, boredom and loneliness contributed to that increase.