Who is the Modern Day Canadian Cannabis Consumer?

Who is the Modern Day Canadian Cannabis Consumer?

Over the last 95 years of prohibition in Canada, we have come to rely on certain tropes to define cannabis culture and the stereotypical cannabis user. The image of the lazy, unmotivated stoner comes to mind—someone like the junk-food-eating slacker Shaggy and his pal Scooby. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with the Reefer Madness woman who is so overcome by her cannabis addiction that she is completely incapable of making healthy life choices.  

Unfortunately, very few of these silly representations are accurate reflections of cannabis consumers. The recent publication of the Canadian Cannabis Survey along with New Frontier Data and MJ Freeway’s survey findings paint a much different picture of the modern-day North American cannabis consumer.

The Canadian Cannabis Survey

The recently released results of the Canadian Cannabis Survey paint a clear picture of how Canadian’s are reacting to legalization, how legalization may have changed consumption patterns and how the market may evolve to suit consumers.

Usage and Openness to Sharing

Interesting results included that while 31% of survey respondents said that they would be willing to disclose their cannabis use once it became legal, 24% claimed to be already comfortable disclosing their usage.

Using a 4-point Likert scale, which had the following categories: no risk, slight risk, moderate risk, great risk and “don’t know” respondents were asked to rate the following substances based on perceived risk. The majority of people overall perceived either moderate or great risk for smoking tobacco (95%), followed by drinking alcohol (78%), smoking cannabis (72%), vaping cannabis (70%), and eating cannabis (66%). Perhaps unsurprisingly, less than half (40%) of those who had used cannabis in the past 12 months perceived moderate or great risk with smoking cannabis compared to 81% of people who had not used cannabis in the past 12 months.

In 2017, 77% agreed that cannabis use could be habit forming, and in 2018, that number jumped up to 82%.

More men (26%) than women (18%) reported consuming cannabis in the past twelve months and young Canadians are also reporting usage in the past twelve months with use of cannabis among people aged 16 to 19 years and people aged 20 to 24 at 36% and 44%, respectively, compared to 19% for people aged 25 years and older—results that are unchanged from the 2017 survey.

When asked about usage frequency, 19% of respondents that reported using cannabis over the past 12 months claimed that they used cannabis daily, 55% reported three times a month or less and, most commonly, 35% respondents reported using cannabis less than one day per month.

Methods of Consumption

Smoking (89%) was the most common method of cannabis consumption reported by people that used cannabis in the past 12 months, however, eating it in food (42%), vaporizing using a vape pen (26%), and vaporizing using a vaporizer (14%) were also popular methods.

The most common method of consumption in all provinces and the territories was smoking (estimates ranged from 84% to 95%), followed by eating it in food (estimates ranged from 18% to 49%) and vaporization using any type of vaporizer (estimates ranged from 13% to 45%).

Dried flower/leaf (82%) usage saw a decrease from 88% compared to 2017, and edibles (41%) saw an increase in consumption rates from 32%.

Medical Usage

Thirteen percent (13%) of all respondents aged 16 and older indicated that they used cannabis for medical purposes, an increase from 12% in 2017. However, 66% of the people who reported using cannabis for medical use also reported that they did not currently have a medical document from a healthcare professional.

Respondents who completed the medical section of the survey were asked if cannabis use for medical purposes allowed them to decrease their use of other medications. The majority of people who used cannabis for medical purposes reported that cannabis use helped decrease their use of other medications (68%).

More on the New Frontier Data Report: Canada Cannabis Report: 2018 Industry Outlook can be found here.


Some of this report’s key takeaways and findings include:

  • The two main archetypes of heavy consumers are the ‘traditional lifestylers’ and ‘modern lifestylers,’ the former primarily a flower consumer who purchases from private sources, and the latter a much more diverse consumer who purchases from businesses
  • The archetypes reveal highly diversified consumption habits and reasons for using cannabis, with the heaviest consumers using cannabis daily for a wide range of reasons that include wellness, medical and socially related, whereas the least frequent consumers use cannabis far less frequently and mainly for relaxation.
  • Sales to older consumers (aged 55+) have increased 50% since 2015, with older consumers now accounting for 29% of medical sales and one-quarter (24%) of all sales nationally.
  • Retail flower prices have fallen significantly since 2015, with average prices for one ounce of flower down 25% likely due to an almost 40% drop in customer flower demand
  • Conversely, the share of concentrates has now nearly reached parity with flower, growing 138% since 2015, from 16% of retail sales in 2015 to 38% in October 2018
  • Most surveyed consumers (67%) reported themselves as adult-use consumers despite citing cannabis use for wellness and medical applications (illustrating convergence in the medical versus adult-use consumer profiles and usage)
  • Sixty percent of consumers spend less than $50 each time they purchase, but with many consumers buying multiple times per month, nearly half the consumers (47%) report spending more than $100 per month on cannabis

Plena is deeply rooted in its commitment to educating people on the real benefits of medical cannabis and to meeting the needs of a flourishing market with cGMP grade products