Survey: 69% of Canadian cannabis consumers ‘always’ buy legal products

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Canada’s federally regulated marijuana industry captured more illicit-market share than ever in 2023, the government’s annual Canadian Cannabis Survey suggests.

Illicit-market capture is a crucial metric for legal cannabis businesses as it represents their actual total addressable market (TAM), or the revenue opportunity available for businesses operating on the legal side of the industry.

Outside the United States – where marijuana is legal in many states but is still federally illegal – underground cannabis sales are often included in TAM models.

But they shouldn’t be, since those sales aren’t available to legal businesses.

The latest version of the survey asked Canadians who consumed cannabis in the past 12 months where they obtained their products from: 69% reported they “always” obtained their marijuana products from a legal or licensed source.

That’s a huge increase from the 48% who reported “always” obtaining their cannabis from legal sources in 2022.

In 2020, the first year responses to this question were disclosed, only 37% of respondents reported “always” obtaining cannabis legally.

The 2023 survey is based on responses from roughly 11,700 people.

Since the estimates on illicit-market capture are generated from a survey, they should be interpreted as a rough approximation of legal versus illegal sales rather than concrete figures.

When analyzing the illicit versus legal markets, MJBizDaily prefers the survey metric showing where consumers say they “always” bought legal cannabis as opposed to Statistics Canada’s preference for data describing where consumers bought “some” of the cannabis they obtained in the past year.

Late last year, for instance, Statistics Canada reported that an estimated 68% of cannabis consumers reported obtaining “at least some” of the cannabis they consumed from a legal source in 2020. That’s substantially higher than the percentage of responses who reported “always” obtaining their cannabis legally.

The 2023 survey also found that 9% of those who consumed cannabis in the past year reported “never” obtained their products from legal sources, down from 15% in 2022, and 18% in 2021.

In 2020, one-fifth of survey respondents said they “always” obtaining cannabis illegally.

The 2023 Canadian Cannabis Survey also found that consumers are spending less on cannabis monthly.

Those who consumed cannabis in the past 12 months indicated spending roughly 63 Canadian dollars per month ($47) on both legal and illegal products.

Of that, people reported spending approximately CA$54 to obtain cannabis legally in 2023, which was a decrease from CA$65 in 2022.

Estimated illegal spending is falling much faster.

In 2023, survey respondents reported spending approximately CA$8 on illegal cannabis per month, marking a substantial decrease from roughly CA$47 on monthly spending in 2020, when the category first appeared in the annual poll.

For the first time in 2023, the survey asked consumers whether they obtained their cannabis from a storefront in a First Nations community.

MJBizDaily previously reported that First Nations entrepreneurs were broadly excluded from Canada’s cannabis legalization model, as only approximately 24 recreational marijuana stores were situated on First Nations reserves last year, among the more than 3,300 provincially authorized stores across the country.

According to the survey, 2% of consumers reported getting their cannabis from a First Nations storefront.

Other findings from the 2023 survey include:

  • 4% of past-year medical and recreational consumers reported that cannabis had been grown in or around their home in 2023.
  • 10% of medical cannabis consumers reported home-growing cannabis.
  • The top factors that most influenced where cannabis was obtained was price (42% reported it as their top factor) and convenience (15%).
  • Strength, or potency, was ranked as the top factor by only 9% of cannabis consumers.

The survey results are available here.

Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.