The boomer weed rush is real: Older Canadians leading country-wide increase in use

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Of roughly 646,000 Canadians to try cannabis in 2019, 332,000 were 45 or older, data from the self-reported survey run by Statistics Canada shows. That brings that demographic’s overall rate of use up from 9 per cent last year to 14 per cent now.

The data released Thursday by Statscan is the first iteration of the National Cannabis Survey conducted exclusively after legalization in October last year. The study has been running since February 2018.

Overall, cannabis use among Canadians increased by three per cent, from 14 percent last year at this time, to 18 per cent, or 5.3 million Canadians aged 15 or older.

For context, nearly 8 in 10 Canadians (78%) reported drinking alcohol in the twelve months from October 2017 to October 2018, according to Statscan.

Still, cannabis use by older Canadians was still far lower than youth. Canadians aged 15 to 24 were by far the most heavy users (and more likely to use frequently), with almost 30 per cent having tried the drug in the past three months. The use rates also break down by gender, with men being much more likely to use cannabis, at over 22 per cent, versus just under 13 per cent for women.

Finally, Alberta and Ontario lead the way in cannabis usage in Canada, according to the study. 21.5 per cent of Albertans had used cannabis in 2019, and 20 per cent in Ontario. Quebec has the lowest rate of cannabis use, at just 11 per cent.

Statscan’s National Cannabis survey also looks at attitudes of users and others toward the use of cannabis and driving. In the first quarter of 2019, it found just under half of Canadians believed someone should wait three hours to drive after using.

Notably, regular users (daily or almost daily) of cannabis were twice as likely to believe it was okay to drive less than three hours after using. The survey also found these beliefs were linked to behaviours — people who believed it was okay to drive were more likely to do so, or be a passenger in a car driven by someone who had used cannabis.

Answers in the cannabis study include use of marijuana, hashish, hash oil, or other cannabis products. The response rate was 50.6%, comparable to previous iterations, with a sample of 5,686 Canadians.

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