Environics Analytics study drills down to the postal code, showing marijuana use across Canada is highest among millennials, with consumption jumping further as income and education levels rise.
From downtown’s millennial tower dwellers, to the scions of leafy Rosedale, to the sons and daughters of the Beaches, Toronto’s top pot users congregate by age amid some of the most affluent neighbourhoods in the city.
A comprehensive new survey released Thursday shows marijuana use in Toronto — and across the country — is highest among 19- to 34-year-olds, with consumption being amped up even further as their income and education levels rise.
“There’s an age group thing going on here,” says Rupen Seoni, a senior vice president with Environics Analytics, which produced the research.
“Younger people living in more affluent parts of the city are more likely to use than people living in other parts of the city,” Seoni says.
The data paints a wide-ranging portrait of Canada’s marijuana scene — medicinal and illicit — three months before its recreational use becomes legal across the country on Oct. 17.
The information — most of which will be offered by subscription to groups with interests in the emerging market that legalization will trigger — touches on dozens of elements of use and distribution and drills down to the postal code level right across the nation.
Among other things, it shows:
- 41 per cent of Canadians under 35 have consumed cannabis at least once;
- 29 per cent of all Canadians older than 19 have tried the drug;
- There is a $3.9 billion marijuana market in Canada with the average price for a gram of pot being $7.36 nationwide;
About 141.7 million joints could be rolled from the amount of cannabis consumed annually in Toronto, the equivalent of 2,050 CN Towers if splifs were stacked on top of each other.
Seoni says he cannot confidently predict at this time whether cannabis use will increase after legalization. But public health records show that use of the drug in Colorado and Washington has not risen appreciatively since it was legalized in the two U.S. states in 2012.
Seoni says the factors driving cannabis use are uniform across the country and discernible imbibing concentrations emerge on survey maps of every Canadian city.
“What’s remarkable is when you look region by region, city by city, the propensity to use, or the propensity to have used at some point, is pretty similar,” he says.
“When you look over 35 (years old, for example) pretty much every region it’s somewhere around 25 per cent of the population … regardless of how you slice and dice.”
Even in Quebec, where opposition to legalization has been strongest, usage among those 19 to 34 is consistent with the same age cohort in other regions of the country, Seoni says.
“It’s the older age group in Quebec that’s driving that (opposition) because the younger people don’t look that different from the rest of the country,” he says.
Seoni says this consistently elevated use of cannabis among 19- to 34-year-olds may simply reflect a high comfort level with the drug among the country’s millennials.
“It may be more than just money and (the) desire to party, it could also just be acceptance,” he says.
Though age and affluence are key determinants of usage, ethnicity also plays a major role, Seoni says.
For example, in youthful and wealthy areas of Markham, cannabis use runs below 29 per cent because of low usage among the large East Asian population in that city.
Education levels are also correlated with usage, but it’s unclear why or to what degree, Seoni says.
The education connection, he says, may simply reflect the reality that younger Canadians today tend to be better educated than previous generations.
“Whether you actually see higher rates as you go up the education scale among younger people … it’s kind of mixed here.”
The data, Seoni says, will be of interest to many different groups, especially as recreational pot becomes legally available in the fall.
“Whether you’re a producer, whether you’re the Ontario Cannabis Store, whether you’re public health trying to promote responsible use,” Seoni says. “That fine-grained understanding of the group that you’re trying to talk to and their propensity to use, you really have to look at the details.”
Seoni says the “CannabisInsights” data also provides information on medicinal use of pot, the various motivations people have for imbibing, potential post-legalization habits and the effects of consumption.
The database was built from a 2018 survey by Vividata of some 5,000 people — a subset of the company’s much larger and ongoing survey of Canadian print media readership — on their use and attitudes towards marijuana.
Information from that survey was then plugged into Environics’ own data model, which tracks about 40,000 demographic variables in each of the approximately 860,000 postal code areas across the country.
“Based on the kinds of people who live in (any given postal code) neighbourhood, we would expect that X per cent of them consume cannabis, X per cent of them buy potato chips, etcetera,” Seoni says.