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OPINION: Where’s the buzz?

Atlantic Canadians seem in no rush to try marijuana once it becomes legal.
(CRA File Graphic)
Atlantic Canadians seem in no rush to try marijuana once it becomes legal. (CRA File Graphic) - The Guardian

Majority of Atlantic Canadians unlikely to take advantage of marijuana legalization

BY DON MILLS

GUEST OPINION

(SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN)

With the impending legalization of marijuana for personal use this July, Corporate Research Associates’ (CRA) research has suggested that the majority of Atlantic Canadians are not likely to take advantage of this new opportunity, at least not initially.

It has been interesting to track the change in opinion over time regarding the legalization of marijuana for personal use. While there has been widespread support among Atlantic Canadians for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for more than five years, it has only been recently that a majority of those living in Atlantic Canada support the legalization of marijuana for personal use. That support, however, is not consistent across the region, with those in Nova Scotia the most likely to support the legalization of marijuana for personal use, and those in P.E.I. the least likely to do so.

One of the key questions, especially for government, is what impact legalization of marijuana will have on government revenues. Our most recent research suggests that the market of marijuana for personal use may be considerably less than many might have otherwise imagined.

In Atlantic Canada, about one-in-five adults indicate either a probable or a definite intention to purchase marijuana for personal use, at least on an occasional basis, when it becomes legal. However, discounting those intentions to provide a more accurate assessment of actual purchase behavior suggests the initial market may be quite small, perhaps as low at 10 per cent of the consumer market. If this were to be the case, government revenues would likely be much lower than originally expected. It should be noted that the stated purchase intentions might be somewhat understated given the possible reticence among some people to provide an honest opinion while marijuana is still an illegal product.

These purchase intentions vary somewhat from province to province, with those living in Newfoundland and Labrador (23 per cent) the most likely to purchase marijuana for personal consumption, and those living on the Island (15 per cent) the least likely to do so.

In terms of demographics, the likelihood of purchasing marijuana for personal use declines sharply with age, with those in the youngest age group (18-34 years old) twice as likely to purchase marijuana for personal use as compared to those in the oldest age group (55 years or older). Interestingly, males are considerably more likely to purchase marijuana than females.

There are clearly other determinants that will impact the personal consumption of marijuana, including the market price relative to the dark market, the selection of products available, and the convenience of purchasing the product. Indeed, the availability of this product in the market will be more limited, generally speaking, than for alcoholic products, thus limiting the revenue opportunity for government.

At the same time, it is highly likely that the market for marijuana will grow over time as the purchase and use of this product becomes more normalized in Canadian society. Interestingly, based on some of our own limited research, consumers actually preferred to have pharmacies distribute marijuana over the alternatives chosen by the provincial governments in each of the four Atlantic Provinces.

The use of pharmacies for the distribution of marijuana would dramatically increase the availability of the product while ensuring the strict regulation and control necessary for this type of product.

- Don Mills is Chairman & CEO Corporate Research Associates Inc. Twitter: @DMillsCRA; E-mail: DMills@CRA.ca

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