Cannabis curious Canadians shift from old to young: StatsCan

Published on March 22, 2024 by David Wylie

Older Canadians are losing interest in cannabis, while younger ones are gravitating toward it.

New data from Statistics Canada highlights the changing trend more than five years after legalization of recreational cannabis.

“Younger Canadians are twice as likely to use cannabis than older Canadians,” says Statistics Canada in its 2023 National Cannabis Survey.

The national department of bean counters says in 2023 more than one-third of adults aged 18-44 used cannabis over the 12 months. That’s in contrast to one in seven adults who were 45 and older.

McGill University’s Mark Ware, associate professor, department of family medicine, says it’s an interesting “snapshot.”

“One major question arising is how patterns are changing over time,” says Ware, whose research interests include evaluating the safety and efficacy of novel approaches to pain management, such as cannabis and music.

But there’s a problem with the data, he says. Previous government reports present age group data differently, so it is hard to compare trends, he adds.

“What we need is consistent measurements of each year following legalization. Deeper questions of why people are using cannabis, and what proportion of this cannabis use may be seen as problematic, are not addressed with these data,” says Ware.

“While it is encouraging to see that two-thirds of adults are purchasing from legal channels and that safety is a driver, it would be interesting to uncover what keeps the other one third in the illicit market.”

Ware has advised the Canadian government on medical cannabis policy since 2001, and in 2016 he served as the vice chair of the federal task force on the legalization and regulation of cannabis in Canada.

Different weed for different ages

Across all age groups, the two most commonly used products were dried flower (62.1%) and edibles (57.1%), says StatsCan.

Several product types (vape pens and cartridges, cannabis extracts and concentrates, cannabis beverages, dried leaf or flower, and edible cannabis) were more commonly used among younger cannabis consumers compared with older consumers.

Other product types (cannabis topicals and oral cannabis oils) were more commonly used among older consumers than younger consumers.

For cannabis consumers aged 25 years and older, dried leaf or flower products were used more commonly among men (70.2%) than women (48.4%), and edible cannabis products were more commonly used among women (62.7%) than men (51.9%). These gender differences were not present for young adults aged 18 to 24 years.

The majority of cannabis consumers—seven out of 10—are buying exclusively from legal sources, citing product safety, convenience, and a desire to follow the law as the main reasons.

More statistics around Canadian cannabis use and age:

In 2023, more than one-third of adults aged 18 to 24 years (38.4%) and 25 to 44 years (34.5%) reported having used cannabis in the previous 12 months, compared with 15.5% of adults aged 45 years and older.

About 1 in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 years (8.7%) and 25 to 44 years (10.3%) reported having used cannabis daily or almost daily in the previous 12 months, compared with 4.8% of adults aged 45 years and older.

Among adults aged 45 years and older, men (6.0%) were more likely to use cannabis daily than women (3.6%), while no gender differences were found for adults younger than 45 years.