As marijuana sales reach an all-time high in Canada, senior citizens have a significant hand in rising legal cannabis use in the country.
When serious conversations around marijuana legalization begin, a loud opposition always voices concern over adolescents suddenly sparking up. The argument follows that legalization would make weed use more appealing to youngsters, thanks to increased familiarity and access. But research suggests the exact opposite time and again.
Washington and Denver teenagers used marijuana less after the substance was legalized in their areas, studies have found, while federal data from 2017 The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported adolescent use declines in all legal states except Alaska.
Canadians heard similar arguments prior to official rollouts of legal marijuana sales last year. But the demographic flocking to cannabis in droves is senior citizens. According to recent data from Statistics Canada, older adults account for the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis users in the country.
In 2012, less than 1% of Canadian seniors reported using marijuana—about 40,000 total consumers. Today, that number has jumped tenfold to 400,000 marijuana users, which translates to 7% of the demographic. A quarter of this group admit to being first-time users as well. This influx of users has increased the average age of the Canadian marijuana user, which was 29.4 years in 2004, but has since risen to 38.1 in 2019.
In figures that echo legal marijuana users in the United States, more than half of seniors say they exclusively use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and for its general health effects. The other half of the population split between recreational use and recreational/medicinal use. Seniors were also most likely to use cannabis products obtained through legal means (41%) versus younger consumers (ranging from 23% to 29%, depending on age group).
The number is not insignificant. Much like California, Canada struggles combatting black market sales in the country. High taxes and scarce retail weed shops have kept many Canadians choosing their neighborhood dealers instead of licensed producers. Per Statistics Canada, the tides are changing, albeit slowly. Canadians obtaining cannabis from illegal sources dropped from 52% in 2018 to 42% in 2019. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada also reported legal marijuana sales reaching an all-time high.