Lake Cowichan amends bylaws to control pot shops when marijuana is legalized this fall. (File Photo)

StatsCan: B.C. cannabis consumption second highest in Canada

Only Nova Scotia had a higher percentage of people reported to have used cannabis in the past three months

People are more likely to have consumed cannabis in the last three months if you’re from British Columbia or Nova Scotia.

And, according to Statistics Canada, about one in seven cannabis users with a driver’s licence reported driving within two hours of using.

“Males were nearly twice as likely as females to engage in this behaviour,” StatsCan reported Thursday.

“In the third quarter, 23% of residents in Nova Scotia and 20% in British Columbia reported using cannabis in the previous three months, above the estimates for the rest of Canada (other provinces combined). By contrast, Quebec (10%) was the only province where cannabis usage was lower than the rest of Canada during the previous three months.”

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About two-thirds of casual cannabis users say they didn’t spend anything on the drug in the past three months, StatsCan said, in a finding chalked up to a sharing culture among marijuana users.

The latest round of data from the agency’s cannabis survey shows more than 650,000, or 14 per cent, of users spent between $251 and $500 in the last three months on cannabis, while three per cent spent more than $1,000.

The numbers paint the most detailed picture to date about Canadians spending habits on a drug that will be legalized in less than a week on Oct. 17, as the agency and others try to get a handle on the market and what it means for policy makers, companies and consumers.

Statistics Canada officials say they plan to pull point-of-sale information from legalized cannabis purchases to figure out how much people spend and its impact on the economy

READ MORE: Canada set to become largest country with legal pot sales

That will involve extending the use of scanner information to better measure consumer spending. As part of the agency’s modernization efforts, it is experimenting with a number of new ways to get information from Canadians without having to call them up at home, among other traditional collection methods.

Officials said Thursday that they are running a pilot project at borders to ping travellers’ mobile devices to get more details about tourism.

The national statistics office can compel any private company in the country to hand over data and plans to test the reach of its legislative authority by turning first to online platforms like Airbnb and Uber before asking foreign-based companies for access to their data holdings on Canadians.

Statistics Canada will launch national consultations next week as part of the agency’s centennial to learn more about the information needs of Canadians so that it can better tailor its programs, with cannabis being a prime example.

Trying to get a handle on cannabis statistics was no easy task when the agency decided to measure its usage and impacts. Statistics Canada has thus far relied on crowd-sourced data but that will change next week when stores, provinces and territories start supplying details about sales.

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The agency says about 4.6 million people over age 15, or about 15 per cent of that age group, reported using cannabis in the past three months, mirroring similar numbers from earlier this year.

About six per cent of users, nearly 1.8 million people, reported using cannabis either daily or almost every day, and three per cent, or almost 800,000 people, reported being weekly users.

Some of the agency’s work on spending and consumption were used as the basis for a report from the C.D. Howe Institute released Thursday that argues some users will continue to spend money in the illegal drug market that the Liberals want to quash through legalization.

The authors estimate the black market will be valued at $2.5 billion in the first year of legalization due to a mix of supply and availability issues in the legal market, shifting tactics in the illegal market, and no federal regulations for edibles. That would mean $800 million in lost tax revenues for Ottawa and the provinces.

You’re more likely to have consumed cannabis in the last three months if you’re from British Columbia or Nova Scotia.

RELATED: Canadian military issues guidelines for marijuana

And, according to Statistics Canada, about one in seven cannabis users with a driver’s licence reported driving within two hours of using

“Males were nearly twice as likely as females to engage in this behaviour,” StatsCan said.

In the third quarter, 23% of residents in Nova Scotia and 20% in British Columbia reported using cannabis in the previous three months, above the estimates for the rest of Canada (other provinces combined). By contrast, Quebec (10%) was the only province where cannabis usage was lower than the rest of Canada during the previous three months.

The rate of cannabis use continued to be higher among males (18%) than females (12%) in the third quarter. Use also decreased with age, as 27% of 15- to 24-year-olds reported cannabis consumption, more than double the rate for people aged 25 and older (13%).

Males were not only more likely to report using cannabis but also more likely to use it daily or almost daily.

– With files from the Canadian Press

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