This week I was part of a panel discussion hosted by MLA for Calgary Mountainview Dr. David Swann, who brought together experts with diverse perspectives from Indigenous health and wellness, public health, law, policing and the City of Calgary, to discuss the risks and benefits of legalization. What I found resonated most with attendees was drawing from the public health evidence to talk about what we know about the prevalence of use and the risks of harm. Surprisingly to me, some people thought that prevalence of lifetime reported use* was already at 80-90%. In fact, what we know is that this is about 43% nationally and 48% for Alberta based on the most recent data from our major general population survey of substance use, Health Canada’s CTADS. In more recent past-year prevalence data from the CCS, which was designed to over-sample cannabis users** we see that reported use in the past 12 months was at 22% for those age 16+. So yes, cannabis is the most frequently used (currently) illicit drug, but based on these representative surveys of Canadians, we can still say that there are more people who are not using it than those who are. In short, nothing to panic about here!
You can watch the Facebook live recordings of the event here (I am the last speaker on the panel):
*this includes anyone who has used at least once in their lifetimes.
**this survey is not meant to provide general population prevalence estimates for cannabis use as the CTADS does.