Who’s Consuming Medical Marijuana in Canada?

byAlanaArmstrong4 minutes

Long gone are the days when anti-marijuana activists could narrow down the profile of the marijuana consumer. Social media alone shows us that medical marijuana is a part of Canadian culture, and those consuming it are as diverse as the country itself. After all, pain and chronic illness casts a wide net across all different ages, genders, races and socio-economic backgrounds.

Canadian Medical Marijuana Numbers Start to Grow

Medical marijuana became legal in Canada in 2001, with regulations established by Health Canada. By then, the Fraser Institute, an independent nonpartisan research and educational organization, concluded that the attitudes of Canadians toward marijuana had officially shifted from majority opposition to decriminalization to majority in support of it, especially cannabis for medical reasons.

These critical factors set Canadians on a whole new path of starting to use cannabis medicinally and chipping away at the hardened stigma of marijuana as a dangerous, loathsome drug.

  • 2015: The number of Canadian medical marijuana patients grew from 23,930 between April and July to 39,668 by the end of the year.
  • 2016: There were 53,649 Canadian medical marijuana patients at the start of the year and129,876 by the end of the year.
  • 2017: Canadian medical marijuana registrants went from 167,754 patients at the start of the year to over 235,621patients by the end of the year.

Surprising Statistics & Areas of Growth in Canadian Medical Marijuana

The government is using web-based crowdsourcing to take the temperature of cannabis consumption in Canada. Citizens submit information anonymously to a Statistic Canada website that tracks cannabis data like price, city of purchase, quality, quantity and purpose—for medicinal or recreational cannabis.

Canadian Medical Marijuana Use by Province

Health Canada and licensed producers (LPs)—businesses authorized to sell medical cannabis to registered persons—keep detailed data on:

  • How many patients are signed up to use Canadian medical marijuana
  • Which province they live in
  • The type of products they purchase

If we take the sales numbers from the first two quarters (April–September) of the 2017–2018 fiscal year, LPs sold an average of 1,966 kilograms of dry cannabis per month to medical marijuana patients. They also sold 2,310 kilograms of cannabis oil. Keep in mind that the only kinds of medical marijuana available in Canada are dry flower and oil.

And the province with the most medical marijuana consumers isn’t one of the three most populated—Ontario, British Columbia (B.C.) or Quebec. Health Canada reports that Alberta, with 74,000 registrants is home to the second-highest number of medicinal marijuana consumers in the country. Compare that to Ontario, which has three times the population and 86,000 registrants.

Who's Growing Their Own Medical Marijuana in Canada?

Beyond that, there are 11,640 Canadians registered to grow their own medicinal marijuana at home.

  • The three provinces with the most home cannabis grow registrants are Ontario (4,279), B.C. (3,511) and Quebec (1,040).
  • The three provinces with the least number of home cannabis grow registrants are Prince Edward Island (25), Northwest Territories (6) and Yukon (4).
  • The territory of Nunavut has zero citizens registered to grow medical marijuana at home.

Despite a nearly thousand-person difference in the number of patients registered to cultivate their own cannabis, when it comes to designating someone else to do the growing for them, two provinces are a lot closer. In B.C., 247 registrants give control of their plants to a designated grower versus 236 registrants who do the same in Ontario.

Even though medical marijuana accounts for only about 10% of cannabis consumption in Canada, it's clear that the market for it is healthy, varied and growing each month. When you take into account that more doctors are supporting cannabis as a treatment and gaining confidence in prescribing it, we can expect to see the data outlined here to grow exponentially in the coming years, even (and maybe especially) with the legalization of recreational adult-use marijuana on the horizon.

Photo credit: Jordan Schultz