Nova Scotia not the top pot spot anymore; the smoke is thickest near the oil patch

Maan Alhmidi 

Published: May 03, 2019 at 8:13 p.m.

Nova Scotians are no longer smoking more weed than anywhere else in the country.

At least the ones who fill out Statistics Canada surveys aren’t.

The percentage of people in this province who self-reported using cannabis during the first quarter of this year has dropped to 18.2 per cent from 21.6 per cent in the previous quarter, according to new data released by Statistics Canada.

Alberta has the lead now with 21.5 per cent followed by Ontario at 20 per cent. Nationally, 17.5 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 who reported using cannabis.

There isn’t much of a difference in the new number between “what’s happening with respect to the rate of cannabis use in Nova Scotia in comparison to the rest of the country,” said Michelle Rotermann, an analyst with Statistics Canada.

“When we did that back in quarter one 2018, we saw that the rate for Nova Scotia was 20 per cent and nationally it was 14 per cent. … The prevalence rate in Nova Scotia was higher than the rest of the provinces,” Rotermann said.

The legalization of cannabis pushed up the national rate, especially in more heavily populated provinces, because people now have access to legal marijuana, she said.

Statistics Canada has conducted the National Cannabis Survey every three months since the start of last year. About 5,600 Canadians were surveyed in the last quarter — about 500 of them were Nova Scotians, said Rotermann.

“I would caution about drawing too much from those surveys because they’re different people that are completing them every time and they’re not fully representative of the population,” said Kara Thompson, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University.

The slight drop between the last quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 in Nova Scotia usage could be because the novelty around legalization “has maybe waned a bit,” she said.

Leading up to legalization, there was a lot of hype around cannabis, she said. “It’s not a large drop; we may see that rebound again in the next wave, depending on how many people we measure,” she added.

She suspects it’s too early to say these changes are driven by economics.

“I don’t think it’s that difficult still to get it illegally if people wanted to get it cheaper,” Thompson said.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is the only legal source of recreational weed in the province.

Since cannabis became legal last October, demand has been consistent, said Bev Ware, who speaks for the NSLC.

Legal cannabis prices haven’t changed in Nova Scotia.

“We have three pricing categories — the basic and the core and the premium,” she added.

The cheapest category ranges in price from $6.33 to $8.49 per gram. The next level up runs from $9 to $10.98 per gram. And the premium is any weed that retails for more than $10.98 per gram.

“Supply continues to be an ongoing issue here in Nova Scotia just as it is across Canada, but we have seen a marked improvement in supply in recent weeks,” said Ware.

Part of the improvement is due to the fact that the Crown corporation has more local suppliers.

“We carry product at the moment from 17 licensed producers — five of them are from the Atlantic region and two in Nova Scotia,” she said. “The third one…. we’ll be carrying their products later this month.”

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