Canadians spent $5.7 billion on cannabis last year – and most of it was not for medical purposes – according to the latest estimates from Statistics Canada.
The announcement comes as statisticians grapple with the upcoming legalization of cannabis across Canada, and how to measure the current illegal consumption.
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.
Speaking to Daily Hive previously, James Tebrake, Director General of StatsCan’s Macroeconomic Accounts Branch, said it’s crucial to understand what’s going on.
“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.
In their latest assessment of the situation, StatsCan found about 4.9 million Canadians aged 15 to 64 years old bought cannabis last year.
Canadian cannabis consumers spent about $1,200 each, mostly on recreational cannabis, which represented 90% of purchases, as opposed to medical marijuana, the agency found.
As a comparison, StatsCan points out that in 2016, Canadians spent $22.3 billion on alcohol and $16 billion on tobacco.
In terms of how much Canadians’ spending on cannabis has increased, StatsCan says from 1961 to 2017 this rose on average more than 6% every year.
Most cannabis consumed in Canada comes from Canadian growers; Canadian production has grown on average more than 7% every year since 1961, say statisticians.
By comparison, in the 1960s, it is estimated around 40% of cannabis consumed in Canada came from overseas. In 2017, that figure was just 8%.
However, StatsCan estimates that Canadians also spent $0.3 billion on illegal cannabis from overseas, and sold $1.2 billion worth of cannabis illegally overseas.
Interestingly, despite the fact Canadians spent billions on cannabis last year, StatsCan found the price of recreational cannabis has actually been falling.
Statisticians estimate the average price of cannabis was $7.50/gram in 2017, compared to $12/gram in 1989, and $5/gram in 1961.
In total, says StatsCan, the size of the cannabis growing industry was $3 billion in 2017, bigger than the $1-billion tobacco industry and the $2.9-billion brewery industry.
The latest stats come as Statistics Canada plans to launch an anonymous online survey, asking consumers how much cannabis they consume and how much it cost.
The anonymous survey, expected to be launched soon, will simply involve going online or using an app to enter the crucial info.
Tebrake said the anonymous crowdsourcing survey is a novel idea for Statistics Canada, but he hopes it will give them a better picture of what’s happening.
“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.”
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.”