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Fewer Than Half of Canadians Now Support Cannabis Legalization

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: May 10, 2019   
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Cannabis-infused edibles will be legal to purchase in Canada this October, but it seems locals have lost their appetite. 

In fact, a new study shows that Canadians are less keen on cannabis in any form than they were just two years ago, prior to legalization.

General support of the drug has dropped from 68 percent in 2017 to 49 percent, and uncertainty about legalization has increased by 7 percent. And while most Canadians wouldn’t mind if establishments started serving edibles later this year, 56 percent of respondents agreed that cannabis retailers should be kept out of residential neighbourhoods.

Cannabis became recreationally legal on October 17, 2018, a day that was memorialized in images of lengthy line-ups outside dispensaries, as retailers worked tirelessly to meet demand. Now, half a year later, the new survey conducted on 1051 Canadians by Dalhousie University indicates that Canada’s cannabis buzz may be quietening down. 

Yet while cannabis fatigue may be settling in, statistically, Canada is still one of the most marijuana-avid regions in the world. A significant 37 percent of the survey’s respondents claimed that they use cannabis, over double the proportion of consumers reported in a similar study in Colorado, another recreationally legal region. Six percent of Canadians also reported that they’ve taken to the drug since legalization. 

The report also highlighted Canadian’s growing concerns over cannabis edibles, in advance of their legalization in October this year. 

“We were surprised to see that Canadians are actually less enthusiastic about edibles since cannabis became legal last fall,” says Dr Sylvain Charlebois, the senior director at the Dalhousie University Agrifood Analytics Lab. “Only 36 percent reported that they would purchase cannabis-infused food products once legal, down from 46 percent in 2017.”

“Sixty percent of Canadians are concerned that cannabis in edible form makes it too easy to overconsume,” he continued in a press statement. “Meanwhile, concern that greater access to edibles poses a risk to children and pets is still high - 64 percent are concerned with the risk for children; 54 percent for pets.”

“With cannabis edibles being legalized in October, we are frankly curious about the decrease in interest expressed by survey respondents,” said Brian Sterling, one of the report’s co-authors. “It will be interesting to see how this perspective evolves as cannabis and infused products become more commonplace.”

Cannabis edibles are often regarded as a stronger form of the drug relative to inhalable products, which is perhaps why a majority of Canadians are concerned about them becoming more accessible. But edibles’ bioavailability, their potential to induce an effect in a person’s system, can be much lower than expected. 

“So, depending on the studies we look at, inhalation has the highest bio-accessibility, north of 20-25 percent,” says Michael Rogers, an associate professor at the University of Guelph. An authority on the science of digestion, Rogers is one of the few academics in Canada researching the digestive effects of cannabis edibles ahead of legalization. Speaking to Analytical Cannabis earlier this year, he explained how marijuana’s food form can be less effective than other methods of consumption. 

“When you start talking about edibles – a chocolate bar, cookie or an oil, for example - you're talking single digit bio-accessibility, meaning 90 percent of that never exerts its biological effects. It's either degraded in first pass metabolism or it's just excreted with the feces,” he explained. 

And regarding the country’s incoming legalization of edibles, Rogers was keen to stress the strict regulations that will be put in place to protect consumers from any overly potent products. 

“So within Canada, the market is going to be defined with strict regulations on the absolute amount of cannabis that can be incorporated into food products. It's going to be very, very strict."

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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