PEI

More than half of Islanders surveyed used cannabis before legalization

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office now has a better idea of how Islanders used and viewed cannabis before it became legal.

'Cannabis use is very common in P.E.I.'

The survey was open to Islanders ages 16 and up, and it found younger people were more likely to use cannabis. (Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office now has a better idea of how Islanders used and viewed cannabis before it became legal.

The province has released the results of a survey conducted in August 2018 — just months before cannabis legalization — which the province's deputy chief public health officer said offers several useful takeaways. 

"The first one isn't very surprising. Cannabis use is very common in P.E.I.," said Dr. David Sabapathy. 

About half of the 4,300 people who completed the survey reported they had used cannabis at some point in their lives, and about a quarter had used it in the past year. 

However, Sabapathy said he was more surprised to see the frequency of use.

"We found that about 25 per cent of those who had used cannabis actually use it daily, or almost daily. We also found that certain populations tended to use cannabis more, and that included those with lower education, lower employment, lower income levels and lower self-rated mental health."

Teenage cannabis use

The survey was open to Islanders ages 16 and up, and it found younger people were more likely to use cannabis. It also found those who started using cannabis before age 15 were more likely to be current users.

Sabapathy said the survey results provide a baseline of data, which will help the department to develop policy and educational campaigns.

"Sixty per cent of people who started using cannabis started before the age of 19. And so for that population, we want to make sure that there's not advertising and marketing that's targeting youth around cannabis use. And that's the type of policies we can help set that will help set up our youth for success." 

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Sabapathy says the results from the cannabis survey will help inform research and policy going forward. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Sabapathy also said many of the lower-risk cannabis use guidelines — such as starting cannabis use later in life, using lower-potency products and not combining cannabis with alcohol and tobacco — were not well understood. 

With edibles set to be available later this year, Sabapathy said there's even more reason to focus on public education and relevant policies. 

The province will also launch another survey next month to find out how the figures have changed since legalization. 

More P.E.I. news

Corrections

  • A previous headline on this story incorrectly stated that half of all Islanders had used cannabis pre-legalization. It should have read half of those surveyed used cannabis pre-legalization.
    Jul 17, 2019 3:16 PM AT

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