Statistics Canada to launch official new anonymous cannabis survey

Jan 18 2018, 11:19 pm

Statistics Canada wants to know how much pot you smoke and how much it cost – and it’s launching an anonymous online survey to find out.

The anonymous survey, expected to be launched next Thursday, will simply involve going online or using an app to enter the crucial info.

No identifying details will be requested, scraped, or shared from your input; StatsCan will just record your city, pot consumption, and the price you paid.

James Tebrake, Director General of StatsCan’s Macroeconomic Accounts Branch, told Daily Hive the anonymous crowdsourcing survey is a novel idea for them.

“We’ve never really done this before… We’re asking Canadians to help us complete the puzzle,” he said.

“It will allow us to get a lot more accurate measure of the industry and the amount of consumption that’s going on.”

‘Ironclad guarantee’ of anonymity

Tebrake confirmed the information provided would be absolutely anonymous, and no identifying information would even be requested.

“We are the national statistical agency and we have an ironclad guarantee that we’ll protect this information, like we would protect any other information,” he said.

Since no identifying information will be submitted, no one will be able to trace the data back to an individual person, said Tebrake.

But anyone will be able to download whatever is reported and analyze it “and maybe provide us with some insights,” he said.

Tebrake admits he doesn’t know how reliable the information submitted will be and that this is an “experiment” for StatsCan.

But he believes the fact people will want to know whether they’re getting a good price for their cannabis will be incentive enough.

“We’re hopeful people want this information as much as we do,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re relying on the cooperation of Canadians like we do for everything.”

“Together we’ll be able to say something accurate about this very interesting thing that’s occurring in Canada.”

As well, he says, StatsCan will be able to compare the findings with other sources of similar information and see if the data is “robust.”

‘It’s a bit of a fascinating subject’

anonymous cannabis survey canada


The move comes as statisticians grapple with the upcoming legalization of cannabis across Canada, and how to measure the current illegal consumption.

Tebrake said StatsCan has been working on this ever since the government announced it would be legalizing cannabis.

“It’s a very interesting project, because there’s challenges all throughout,” he said. “I think if you’re a social scientist or an economist or sociologist, it’s a bit of a fascinating subject.”

“How much does the fact that something’s legal or not legal really stop individuals from participating? I think that’s a really important question to answer.”

StatsCan’s preparations include everything from just adding “the cannabis industry” to its systems to combing through past health surveys that asked about cannabis use.

Tebrake said they are also using data from and receiving information from Canadian border services on import and export seizures.

“We were surprised to see that over the years quite a bit of information, whether by Statistics Canada or by other people, has been collected on these surveys,” he said.

‘It’s been much like a puzzle’

In the next couple of weeks, says Tebrake, StatsCan will be releasing more of their findings about the cannabis industry over the years.

“We’ve tried to piece all that together as best we can. It’s been much like a puzzle and trying to paint a picture,” he said.

Tebrake it’s crucial to measure the state of the cannabis industry before legalization, so they can see how it changes once pot becomes legal.

“The government’s really keen on understanding the size of the market, because they want to understand whether the licensed producers are going to supply the demand that’s out there,” he said.

Anonymous survey could be here to stay

As well as the anonymous survey, StatsCan will be running a quarterly survey of up to 15,000 households about their changing behaviour with respect to cannabis in 2018.

“We’re really hoping that that’s going to help all of us understand how behaviours may be changing towards legalization,” said Tebrake.

As for the anonymous survey, Tebrake says if it’s successful, StatsCan plans to keep it live indefinitely, as an ongoing record of the industry.

“We definitely want to keep it up through the legalization,” he said.

“If people are happy to continue to provide that information, and we’re happy to continue to collect it, then we’ll use it and report back to Canadians.”

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