What do you know about cannabis? Results from our local survey in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph

When we launched our cannabis survey in the early summer of 2018 we hoped that, despite the warm sun beckoning outside, people would take the time to tell us about their thoughts and experiences with this soon-to-be-legal substance. Well, residents of Wellington County, Dufferin County and the City of Guelph—thousands of you answered the call!

We’ve crunched the numbers and are happy to share some of the key findings about non-medical cannabis use below:

  • Do you think folks are aware of the health risks (and if so, which risks)?
  • What proportion think cannabis is a problem in their community?
  • Do non-users plan to try it once it’s legal?

Thank you to all who responded to the survey. We are always grateful to those who share their experiences with us, so we can learn more about health issues at the local level. We always post about the ways you can have your voice heard on our website.

Key findings from the 2018 cannabis survey

Cannabis Survey Results infographic

These key findings are about non-medical cannabis use in our community.

Who’s using cannabis?

  • Just over one-third of respondents said they’d used cannabis in the past year, compared to nearly two-thirds who hadn’t
    • Based on other Canadian cannabis surveys this number is expected to be between 15 and 22 percent, suggesting this survey attracted a high number of people who use cannabis-but not necessarily that more people use cannabis in our area.
  • Of those who have used it in the past year, about a quarter said they use daily (which can increase the risk of problems with your health, education and social life) and just over a quarter said they used it less than 1 day a month
  • Daily cannabis use was highest among respondents ages 30 to 39
  • Of those who haven’t used cannabis recently (past 12 months), 36% said they would be likely to try it once it becomes legal

What do residents KNOW about cannabis?

There are some topic areas where about two-thirds (67%) or more of respondents were aware of health risks:

  • 83% knew that using cannabis increases your risk of a motor vehicle collision (car accident)
  • 66% knew that using cannabis while pregnant can cause harm to the fetus/child (10% disagreed and 24% didn’t know)

There were also areas where respondents were not aware of the risks:

  • Only 38% of respondents knew that cannabis smoke contains the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke
  • About 43% of respondents disagreed or didn’t know that using cannabis daily or almost daily can cause problems with memory, learning and decision-making
  • Just over half of respondents (about 51%) disagreed or didn’t know that using cannabis can result in dependence or addiction

How do residents FEEL about cannabis?

  • 77% of respondents said cannabis can be beneficial
  • 65% agree that cannabis is socially acceptable
  • 23% think cannabis is a problem in their community

Impacts on youth are greater

Did you know that the risks of using cannabis are higher for youth under age 25 than for adults over 25? About 38% of our survey respondents didn’t know. But young brains develop until that quarter-century mark, and that means cannabis affects young people differently.

This is concerning because about half of respondents who had tried cannabis in the past said they tried it for the first time when they were 16 or younger.

Find out more about how cannabis affects the developing brain.

Why do these results matter?

We wanted to get first-hand, local data so we can track the impact of cannabis legalization. From other substances (i.e., tobacco, alcohol) we know that increased access tends to result in greater use and greater harms. Will this be the case with cannabis? We’ll be able to compare future data with these baseline numbers to find out.

Results from this survey also helped us identify areas where we need to step up our education and information efforts so there is a lower chance of harm for those who do choose to use cannabis.

(Have you seen our ‘Talking About Weed’ videos yet? They highlight some of the health impacts you might not have heard about.)

Thanks for learning more about cannabis!

Maybe you’re thinking of trying cannabis for the first time; maybe you work with pregnant women; or perhaps you have a teen (with a developing brain!) at home. In any case, we hope you learned something from these survey results.

If you have any questions about the health effects of cannabis, we invite you to get in touch via our websiteFacebookTwitter or Instagram. If you have a pregnancy- or parenting-related question, call 1-800-265-7293 ext. 3616 to get advice from a public health nurse.