Canada’s legal cannabis market winning over illicit consumers, survey suggests

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More Canadians than ever are purchasing cannabis primarily from regulated suppliers instead of illicit ones, according to the Canadian government’s annual Cannabis Survey.

The survey, which is based on online responses from roughly 10,000 people, suggests that, among those who consumed cannabis in the past 12 months, 48% “always” obtained their cannabis from legal sources.

That is up from 43% in 2021 and 37% in 2020.

That compares to 5% who “always” obtained cannabis from an illegal source in 2022, 7% in 2021 and 9% in 2020.

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2018.

The survey also found that 67% of those who consumed cannabis in the past year “never” obtained their products from illegal sources, while 15% “never” obtained their products from regulated sources.

The survey has mostly public-health implications, but some of the data is relevant for businesses.

Illegal online spending is sometimes cited by executives as a primary competitor to legal cannabis businesses.

However, only 2% of respondents who consumed cannabis in the past year said their source was “usually” an illegal online store. That’s down from 4% in 2019.

Average monthly spending on recreational cannabis appears to be decreasing since legalization, according to the survey.

Among those who consumed recreational marijuana in the past year (illegal and legal), the amount they “typically” spend each month has fallen from 75 Canadian dollars ($55) in 2017 to CA$65 in 2022, the survey says.

One factor for that trend might be falling prices.

Spending on illegal cannabis appears to be decreasing when compared to spending on legal products, at least according to this survey.

Among Canadians who consumed cannabis in the past 30 days, approximately CA$65 was spent at legal sources versus CA$19 from illegal sources in the past month.

Last year, that figure was CA$55 in the regulated versus CA$31 from illegal sources.

In 2020, that figure was CA$49 in the regulated market versus CA$47 from illegal sources.

The 2022 survey is the sixth cycle of the annual survey. Data is collected from April to June.

Survey respondents were asked to rank the top three factors that most influenced “from whom they usually obtain cannabis.”

The top selections were price, safe supply, quality and convenience. Potency placed last among the seven options.

Frequency of cannabis use does not appear to have meaningfully changed since legalization.

In 2019, the first full calendar year of legal cannabis sales, 18% of respondents who had consumed cannabis in the past year reported daily consumption. The figure is roughly the same in subsequent years.

The survey also found that “past year” cannabis consumption among youth 16-19 years old returned to pre-legalization levels in 2021 and 2022, after increasing between 2018 and 2020.