With cannabis now legal for adult consumption across Canada, the country is seeing a spike in first-time tokers. And the people partaking in their first puff may not be who you think.
While opponents of marijuana legalization often say it will lead to increased consumption of cannabis among teens, that just isn't the case. In fact, cannabis use among young people actually appears to be dropping in states that have moved to create regulated markets for the substance.
Instead of teens, the group that's experimenting with cannabis more now that it's legal is actually a more mature crowd. In Canada, the folks most likely to have tried cannabis for the first time since it was legalized last October actually fall into the 45-to-65 age range. Nearly half of the 646,000 new cannabis consumers in Canada are older individuals, according to data collected by Statistics Canada.
Perhaps less surprising is the fact that males are still more likely to be cannabis consumers than women. Rates of cannabis consumption increased from 16 to 22 percent for men since cannabis was legalized. Rates for consumption by females remained at 13 percent.
While the overall number of new consumers nearly doubled from last year, experts suggest use rates will drop back down soon enough. A similar spike and decline of use has been seen in states like Colorado, who have similarly moved to legalize cannabis.
"Researchers sometimes refer to this as a 'straw fire effect' in the sense that it kind of burns bright for a very short amount of time and then goes back down," JF Crépault - a senior policy analyst at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health - told CBC.
Still, the data shows that cannabis isn't a young person's herb, despite what stoner stereotypes suggest.