Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians still buying illegal cannabis, survey shows

A survey conducted on behalf of the NSLC said 41 per cent of Nova Scotians who buy recreational cannabis were purchasing their product exclusively from the NSLC. But it also showed 20 per cent were still buying solely from illegal sources.

One in four Nova Scotians have purchased recreational cannabis

The NSLC cannabis store in downtown Halifax. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Some Nova Scotians are still buying from illegal sources, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the NSLC about cannabis use in the province.

The survey covered the first six months after legalization in October 2018.

According to telephone and online surveys conducted by Narrative Research in March and April, 41 per cent of Nova Scotians who were buying recreational cannabis were purchasing their product exclusively from the NSLC.

But the survey also said 40 per cent of people were purchasing cannabis from both the NSLC and illegal sources, while about 20 per cent were buying solely from illegal sources.

"It tells us that we are making an impact on the illicit market," said Beverley Ware, spokesperson for the NSLC.

Ware noted that the survey showed purchases from personal connections, such as dealers, declined to 39 per cent from 63 per cent before cannabis was sold by the NSLC.

She said 28 per cent of people surveyed purchased from an illegal storefront, down from 40 per cent before it was sold by the Crown corporation.

"Clearly legalization is having an impact on illicit sales, and that was a cornerstone of the legislation," she said. "It's extremely important to now be able to quantify that impact."

The survey showed nearly half of people who purchased cannabis were between the ages of 19 and 34. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Samantha Rousell, 19, said she has bought cannabis from the NSLC a few times, but mostly still purchases her product illegally.

"I find it better in quality, and I find the prices are way different ⁠— way better," said Rousell, who is a student and also works part time.

Rousell is not alone.

The survey said between 61 and 64 per cent of purchasers cited high prices as the main reason they did not shop at NSLC.

Between 18 and 28 per cent cited poor product selection, and another 20 to 22 per cent mentioned poor product quality.

Ware said many of those factors are being or have already been addressed since the survey was conducted five months ago.

One in four Nova Scotians bought cannabis

"Since then, we have seen a beginning in the reduction of prices as the industry starts to mature," she said.

"We will be looking at pricing because we have a flexible model, but we also need to bear in mind that there's a cost associated with providing a safe and secure supply of cannabis."

She said the company has also been addressing the quality and quantity issues that plagued many provinces when cannabis first hit the shelves last year.

The survey also said a quarter of Nova Scotians who were surveyed had purchased cannabis, and 49 per cent of people who purchased it were between the ages of 19 and 34. 

The telephone survey involved 3,460 people called at random and the results carry a margin of error of plus or minus 1.7 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

There were also 1,907 online survey responses from two panels — one from a group of NSLC customers and another from the general population.

Ware said the information will help the NSLC in future business decisions.


Aly Thomson


Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at


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