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Growing Percentage Of Cannabis Consumers Transitioning To Legal Market

Pictured: One of the greatest cannabis stock images of all time

Most Canadian cannabis consumers have transitioned from the unregulated market to the legal marketplace, according to data provided by Health Canada and published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Government researchers surveyed over 56,000 participants age 16 or older. Investigators assessed year-over-year trends in subjects’ cannabis use since 2018. (The Canadian government began permitting retail marijuana sales to those 18 and older that fall.)

Consistent with other data, researchers reported that the percentage of respondents who acknowledge obtaining cannabis from legal sources is steadily increasing.

In 2019, the first full year of legalization, only 37 percent of respondents reporting buying cannabis from legal sources. That percentage increased to 69 percent in 2022. Only four percent of respondents in 2022 reported purchasing cannabis from the unregulated marketplace.

The study’s authors also noted declines in respondents’ self-reported use of high-potency THC products, such as concentrates.

“Data from the current study and several other sources indicate that cannabis consumers are increasingly turning to the legal cannabis market in lieu of illegal sources,” they concluded. “Close to 70 percent of consumers reported a legal store or website as their usual purchase source four years post-legalization in 2022. This increased transition to the legal market presents numerous public health benefits since products sourced from the legal market are subject to strict quality control and testing measures, both with respect to cannabinoid content and labelling as well as testing and controlling for various contaminants.”

US data similarly reports that a growing percentage of consumers are transitioning to the legal marketplace. According to a 2023 survey, 52 percent of consumers residing in legal states said that they primarily sourced their cannabis products from brick-and-mortal establishments. By contrast, only six percent of respondents said that they primarily purchased cannabis from a “dealer.” Many consumers residing in non-legal states also reported that they frequently traveled to neighboring legal states to purchase cannabis products and return home with them.

A separate 2022 economic study reported that consumers are most likely to transition to the legal marketplace in jurisdictions where state-licensed retailers are widely available. According to the study’s findings, “States with roughly 20 to 40 legal regulated stores per 100,000 residents, in general, have captured 80 percent to 90 percent of all cannabis sales in the legal market.”

Commenting on the studies’ findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “These data indicate that the legal, regulated cannabis market is displacing the underground marketplace. Over time, consumers are becoming more comfortable with and more reliant upon licensed retailers – who typically offer greater convenience, product quality, and safety.”

This article was reprinted from NORML. The full text of the study, “How have cannabis use and related indicators changed since legalization of cannabis for non-medical purposes? Results of the Canadian Cannabis Survey 2018-2022,” appears in the International Journal of Drug Policy.