New Canadian online study of cannabis dispensary users set to launch

published on February 17, 2017

With the Canadian federal government soon to announce plans to legalize cannabis, researchers from the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), a part of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), are launching an innovative new study to fill a crucial knowledge gap: How do Canadians use cannabis?

“How adults use cannabis for medical and non-medical purposes has never been fully researched in Canada,” said Dr. M-J Milloy, a research scientist at the BC-CfE and an assistant professor of the University of British Columbia. “Our study aims to generate detailed evidence on cannabis use, harms and possible benefits to help inform the creation of the new public health framework and provide baseline data for monitoring the impacts of legalization.”

Now recruiting participants, the Vancouver Cannabis Dispensary Users Study is the first study in Canada aimed at gathering data from individuals representing the full spectrum of cannabis use, including medical, non-medial, problematic and non-problematic use. Researchers aim to recruit over 1,000 adult cannabis users who access cannabis from retail dispensaries in the City of Vancouver. Participants will complete an anonymous online survey detailing their cannabis use behaviours, beliefs, reasons for use, perceived benefits and experience of harms, such as intoxicated driving.

Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. In Canada, approximately 10 per cent of adults (or three million Canadians) are estimated to have used cannabis during the past 12 months. The Canadian federal government’s plan to legalize and regulate cannabis production, distribution and use by adults for medical and non-medical purposes will be the most far-reaching reform to regulating substance use in decades. There is a broad consensus among experts and policymakers that cannabis legalization requires active monitoring and careful evaluation in order to maximize possible benefits and lessen any negative impacts.

At present, there exists very little detailed data on cannabis use by Canadians. Although past studies have estimated how many Canadians use cannabis, other key statistics, such as rates of cannabis dependence and risk factors for experiencing harms from using cannabis, have not been well researched. Other questions, including medical and non-medical reasons for cannabis use and patterns and preferences for accessing legal cannabis, are also unanswered. The Vancouver Cannabis Dispensary Users Study is a first step to answering these and other related questions.

For more information about the study, please visit