Comparing attitudes about cannabis in US and Canada

| Sarah Clark

A new research article argues sales of cannabis, especially edibles, are likely to capture an increasing share of the market as consumer interest increases and stigmas decrease.

The study, published recently in the Journal of Cannabis Research, compares and contrasts opinions on cannabis, cannabis use, and legalization in the US and Canada.

Unsurprisingly, both countries showed high levels of support for legalization, with three-quarters of Canadians and Americans (78% and 75%) reporting that they agree/strongly agree with legalization for recreational (adult-use) purposes. 

The report also says that usage rates among adults in both countries were similar as well, with 45% of Canadians and 42% of Americans confirming they consume cannabis. This number is higher than a recent report from Statistics Canada in 2022, which showed that 27% of people 16 years of age and older reported having used cannabis in the past 12 months, an increase from 25% in the previous reporting cycle.

This study was built around online surveys of those aged 19 and over, living in the USA or Canada for at least 12 months. In addition to their opinions on legalization, respondents were asked how they feel about being known for consuming cannabis, how often they consume cannabis, and for what purpose. 

They were also asked questions specifically about cannabis edibles. While Americans were slightly more likely to report consuming cannabis edibles and beverages (24.5% and 28.5%), Canadians were more likely to report using cannabis oils or tinctures (22% and 8.7%).

Cannabis oils, capsules and tinctures, the active ingredient in most edibles, have been allowed for sale in Canada’s legal, regulated cannabis market since 2016 (medical only until 2018), while edibles and beverages were not allowed until 2019 and not widely available until 2020 or later. Cannabis edibles and beverages in Canada are also subject to a limit of 10mg THC per serving and per package, while many US markets allow a greater amount of THC per package. 

Respondents were also asked if they intend to increase their purchases of edibles in the future and about their perceptions and concerns with edibles. Around 21% of American buyers reported they would increase purchases, compared to 13% of consumers in Canada. 

Respondents were also asked about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their cannabis use, a subject covered by other recent surveys and studies, with 14% of Canadian and 16% of US cannabis users reporting they consumed more often between April 2020 and April 2021. Canadians were more likely (63%) to express concern about the perceived risks cannabis edibles can present to children compared to Americans (51%). 

The researchers conclude that the market for dried flower will “stagnate and transition toward the edible market, as most health experts continue to discourage consumers from inhaling cannabis,” but argue there is a need for more education for the “canna curious” who may want to try these products but have various concerns. 

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