The cannabis question: What is happening in BC?

No matter what you call it, cannabis, marijuana, pot or weed, this plant is a hot topic in BC. Our new blog series will try to shed some light on a variety of different, yet important facets of cannabis and its consumption. We will cover a number of different topics including the Sensible BC campaign, medical marijuana use, cannabis and driving, youth cannabis use, and guidelines around safe consumption of cannabis. We will also have guest bloggers from Colorado and Washington State weighing in on the implications of the recent cannabis legalization south of the border.

Here is a snapshot of what cannabis consumption currently looks like in BC. Ratesof both lifetime and past-year cannabis use have been higher in BC than the rest of Canada since 2008.  In fact, nearly 50% of British Columbians have tried cannabis at some point in their life, and approximately 16% of males and 10% of females in BC have used cannabis in the last year. Nationally, the prevalence of ever having used cannabis has gone down over the past five years, but has remained steady in BC and the prevalence of past year use has increased among males in BC since 2008.

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These differences may partially reflect the large number of people who use medical marijuana in BC. Of the 28,000 licenses to possess dried marijuana issued in Canada by December 2012, nearly half of them (13,300) were in BC. This is nearly double that of any other province.  The reasons for the high rates of cannabis use among British Columbians are not clear, but cultural differences in the acceptability of use and easier accessibility may be contributing factors.

Over the last several decades, there has been a shift in public opinion on the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis in Canada. The most recent polls showed that nearly 70% of Canadians were in favour of either legalization or decriminalization of cannabis and this rate may be even higher among those in British Columbia. Currently, there is a campaign in BC led by the Sensible BC organization to have a marijuana referendum in 2014.  If they collect enough signatures by December 5th, BC will have a referendum to vote on decriminalizing cannabis in the province next year. The social climate around cannabis use in BC is changing. We hope this blog series will facilitate a better understanding of the often complicated culture of cannabis in BC and contribute to the lively discussions already happening around the province.

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Authors: Kate Vallance and Kara Thompson

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