Pubdate: Mon, 19 Sep 2017
Source: Sudbury Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media
Author: Ben Leeson
Page: A1


More than a third of respondents plan to use legalized marijuana

A new study by Sudbury-based researchers has found that 39 per cent,
or 11.5 million adult Canadians intend to be cannabis consumers once
the federal government's legalization plan becomes a reality.

According to a survey of 5,000 randomly selected Canadians, done in
partnership between Oraclepoll Research and cannabis marketing
consultant Colin Firth, 57 per cent of Canadians support the federal
government's plan to legalize marijuana by July 2018.

Oraclepoll president Paul Seccaspina said the resulting report, What's
the Buzz?, is the most detailed, comprehensive and unbiased consumer
market research study performed for the cannabis sector, which
addresses a lack of data on the emerging industry.

"In this survey, we covered everything from usage, how much you use,
potential usage, will people try it, their support for medical
marijuana, and a whole range of issues, right down to the retail
component and how should it be distributed," Seccaspina told The
Sudbury Star. "It's broken down by province and by demographic, so
there's a lot of information.

"It is an issue that there hasn't been a lot of really in-depth data
and research on."

The 11.5 million potential consumers exceeds previous projections,
according to Oracepoll, and the volume of cannabis needed to supply
that demand will be nearly double the mid-range amount predicted by
the Parliamentary Budget Office last November. Even a "modest"
baseline rate of eight grams per month translates into 1,000,000
kilograms per year - potential boon for Health Canada-licensed producers.

While 7.5 million Canadians, or 26 per cent of the population, are
admitted cannabis users, What's the Buzz? shows that number could jump
by 13 per cent once legalization comes to pass.

"I think it's an interesting number that really shows the potential
for people to try it at least once or twice," Seccaspina said.

Potential usage rates vary by region, with Ontario and British
Columbia at the upper end of the scale, and by demographic, with
millennials across the country showing higher support for
legalization, higher current usage and higher likelihood to use.

Other findings in the 60-page report include:

34 per cent of Canadians claim they have a friend or family member
that currently use recreational cannabis.

78 per cent of those surveyed are aware that medical marijuana can
replace certain types of medication.

24 per cent of current and potential users will replace alcohol with

28 per cent have an interest in cannabis edibles, while 60 per cent
say they will choose smoking as their preferred method to consume cannabis

77 per cent of current and potential cannabis users said they will
purchase cannabis from a licensed grower.

63 per cent of respondents favour the retail model for recreational
cannabis purchases, while 30 per cent prefer online shopping.

72 per cent of Canadians believe that the federal government should
pardon and eliminate previous and current convictions for simple
cannabis possession. Those numbers are of significant interest to
Karrie-Ann Jones, a public health nurse with the Sudbury and District
Health Unit who leads the Community Drug Strategy, a collaboration
between the health unit and Greater Sudbury Police, as well as other
key professionals and community leaders.

"The first thing that struck me is how they're saying there's a lack
of sufficient data for this emerging industry," Jones said. "We know
that we're currently in uncharted territory and I know that in our
consultation with the ministry, we said that it's really important
that we have more investment in research, shortand long-term health
impacts of cannabis use, in order to best guide public education and
other cannabis policies."

The health unit favours using revenue generated from cannabis sales to
fund further research and education for point-of-sale staff, health
officials and the public.

"We know that there are risks associated with using cannabis," Jones
said. "They range anywhere from problems with thinking, memory,
co-ordination, impaired perception, to fatal and non-fatal injuries.
We know there are motor-vehicle accidents due to impairment and we
don't have any legislation or information related to that at this
time, but we're looking forward to hearing stuff on that."

Cannabis usage has also been linked to mental-health problems, chronic
lung disease and reproductive issues, she said.

"We know there are a lot of risks associated with it, so it's really
important to make sure the public is safe and health and they know the
risks associated with using cannabis."

As with alcohol, the health unit prefers a harm-reduction approach. A
set of guidelines for low-risk marijuana use was recently endorsed by
the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Centre on
Substance Use and Addiction, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental

"The main goal of that policy is to protect public health and public
safety, so that's something we're currently promoting," Jones said.
"As we get information, we're trying to stay on top of it and to make
sure people can make an informed decision."

While a majority of respondents in the Oracepoll study favoured local
retail as a distribution model, the Ontario government has opted to
sell marijuana in 150 government-run stores, with a minimum purchasing
age of 19.

The plan has been sharply criticized by several cannabis activists and
commentators, some of whom believe a tightly controlled system will
only contribute to growth in the black market, but Jones said SDHU
favours a government-owned, government-controlled distribution model
to control availability, accessibility, to provide information on
possible side effects and to regulate marketing.

While the public may be exposed to strong voices at either end of the
legalization debate, either those adamantly opposed to legal cannabis
or who believe the government plan is too restrictive, Seccaspina said
What's the Buzz? reveals many Canadians have more moderate views on
the issue.

"I have been to so many town hall forums where on one hand, you get
people with pitchforks opposing some project, and on the other hand,
you get people who are strong supporters," Seccaspina said. "You can
slice off 10, 20 per cent on any issue and the bulk of people are
sitting in that 60, 80 per cent in the middle, saying you know what,
we'll give it a try, see where it's at, we really don't have an
opinion on the issue and we're going to let it play out. This issue of
legalization is no different."

Download an overview of What's the Buzz? or purchase the full report
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MAP posted-by: Matt