Big Story 10

Canadians spent C$5.7 billion on cannabis in 2017: Statistics Canada

FILE PHOTO: A marijuana plant is seen at the The Global Marijuana March in Toronto, May 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians spent an estimated C$5.7 billion ($4.63 billion) on cannabis in 2017, Statistics Canada said on Thursday, with the country on track to legalize recreational use of the drug nationwide later this year.

About 4.9 million Canadians between the ages of 15 to 64 purchased both medical and non-medical cannabis last year, the statistics agency said. Medical marijuana is already legal in the country.

The average cannabis user spent about C$1,200 spent on the drug last year, mostly on non-medical marijuana, the report said. Recreational use of cannabis is currently illegal nationwide.

Canadians’ spending on cannabis was well below 2016 levels for alcohol at C$22.3 billion and tobacco at C$16 billion.

The report, which looked at cannabis consumption going back to 1961, was based on surveys and other data sources. Statistics Canada cautioned that the numbers were provisional and subject to potentially large revisions due to assumptions made and as data on illegal cannabis production is sparse.

The report is part of Statistics Canada’s efforts to measure the economic and social impacts of legalized cannabis. The agency said in November that it would begin incorporating marijuana consumption and spending estimates into economic growth figures in November 2019.

The price of non-medical cannabis has declined by an average of 1.7 percent a year since 1990 and stood at around C$7.50 a gram last year, probably due to increased supplies, the report said.

Nearly all cannabis consumed in Canada came from within the country, accounting for C$5.4 billion in 2017.

The size of the country’s cannabis-producing industry was C$3 billion last year, down from C$3.4 billion in 2014, due to declining prices. That put it on par with the beer industry, which was C$2.9 billion in 2014.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn