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Majority don't use cannabis

Compared to the rest of Northern B.C., cannabis use was lowest in the northeast, according to results from the B.C. Cannabis Use Survey

New data from the provincial government is revealing some trends about cannabis use in Northeast B.C.

The B.C. Cannabis Use Survey is one of the first large-scale provincial studies assessing changes in cannabis behaviours and perceptions since cannabis was legalized for recreational use in 2018.

According to survey results, 33% of respondents in the Northeast Health Service Delivery Area reported consuming cannabis within the past 12 months — mostly by smoking or as an edible.

But the majority hadn’t used the drug at all, with 67% of respondents reported being a non-user, though a small proportion acknowledged having used cannabis for medical or non-medical purposes at some point in their life, but not within the past 12 months.

In total, 24,794 people were surveyed by phone province-wide between August to October 2021, including 1,634 respondents in the northeast region. Another 147 local residents completed an online survey.

Here are some of the localized findings:

- The average age of medical cannabis users in Northeast B.C. is 46 years (56% men, and 44% women) and the average age of non-medical recreational users is 38 years (65% men and 35% women);

- Two-thirds of those who used cannabis said it had the highest impact on their quality of life (67%), followed by emotional well being (65%) and mental health (62%);

- The top three reported reasons for using cannabis was for physical pain relief, enjoyment and recreation, and a better sleep. The most common symptoms treated by medical users were sleeping problems, anxiety, chronic non-cancer pain, and depression;

- 24% of recreational users and 21% of medical users reported using cannabis more due the pandemic. The top three reasons for increased use were to manage mental health, to relax, and boredom;

- 30% of users reported experiencing negative judgment or stigma from friends, family, or coworkers about their cannabis use, while 8% said cannabis had the highest negative impact on their work or studies;

- 64% of users believe cannabis use impairs driving and 30% said they had driven after consuming. And 69% said they had been the passenger of someone who had consumed cannabis.

Compared to the rest of Northern B.C., cannabis use was lowest in the northeast, according to the survey results.

In the Northwest, 45% of respondents had used cannabis within the past 12 months, and in the Northern Interior, 38% within the past 12 months of the survey's timeframe.

The provincial average was 32%.

The provincial results also show a significant decrease in the number of consumers who reported buying from an unlicensed store — down from 56% in 2018 to 17% in 2021, while 71% of consumers reported purchasing from licensed retailers.

In the northeast, 86% of recreational and 74% of medical users reported buying from a licensed private or government-operated retailer. Thirty-nine per cent of recreational users reported getting their cannabis through a friend or an acquaintance.

“This comprehensive report gives us important information directly from people in British Columbia on their opinions and habits surrounding cannabis use," said public safety minister Mike Farnworth in a statement.

"From how it may impact their daily lives to perceptions around cannabis use and driving, it's important for us to know this information so we can support a strong cannabis sector in B.C., while continuing to keep public health and safety the cornerstone of our policies."


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