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Prevalence Of Cannabis Use Among Canadian Youth “Unchanged” Per New Data

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Canada is home to the largest cannabis public policy and regulation experiment in history. Canada became the first G-7 nation to pass a national adult-use cannabis legalization measure in late 2018 and still remains the only G-7 nation to do so.

Joining Canada on the list of legalized nations are Uruguay, Malta, and Luxembourg. However, Canada is the only country on the list that permits sales to anyone of legal age regardless of residency status.

Consumers in Canada are afforded the most robust options for obtaining cannabis by legal means, including dispensaries, delivery services, mail delivery, cannabis clubs, etc. Leading up to the implementation of legalization cannabis opponents issued numerous warnings specific to youth consumption. By all measurements, doomsday predictions have not materialized.

One talking point that cannabis opponents touted leading up to legalization in Canada was that ‘legalization would increase youth consumption rates.’ It’s a popular talking point for cannabis opponents everywhere that cannabis reform is being considered, including medical cannabis reform.

But what does the math say? Health Canada conducts a survey every year to gauge, among other things, how many people report having consumed cannabis.

According to the 2019 survey, the results of which were released in 2020 (bold font added for emphasis), “In 2019, 40% (12.0 million) of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported ever smoking cannabis. The prevalence of ever smoking cannabis was 25% (699,000) among youth aged 15 to 19, 55% (990,000) among young adults aged 20 to 24, and 39% (10.3 million) among adults aged 25 years and over.”

The results of the 2022 Health Canada survey were recently released. According to the survey’s authors (bold font added for emphasis), “In 2022, 39.5% [95% CI: 38.3, 40.7] (12.7 million) of Canadians aged 15 years and older reported ever smoking cannabis, unchanged from 2021…The prevalence of ever smoking cannabis was unchanged among youth aged 15-19 years at 20.1% [95% CI: 18.4, 21.8] (424,000), and adults aged 25 years and older at 40.2% [95% CI: 38.8, 41.6] (11.1 million).

For contextual purposes, the reference to “unchanged” in the 2022 survey results is in regard to the previous year’s (2021) survey results. According to the Canadian government’s own data, between 2019 and 2022 reported lifetime cannabis use declined by nearly 20% since legalization.

That statistic is significant given the fact that cannabis policy modernization efforts are gaining steam across the world right now, and a big hesitation expressed by many voters and lawmakers relates to concerns regarding youth consumption rates.

Canada provides the best cannabis public policy data to analyze given the robust consumer options in Canada, and as you can see from the survey results, regulation appears to be better at curbing youth consumption rates than prohibition.