StatCan to get pot sales data in push to mod­ern­ize the agency

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — About two-thirds of ca­sual cannabis users say they didn’t spend any­thing on the drug in the past three months, Sta­tis­tics Canada re­ported Thurs­day in a find­ing chalked up to a shar­ing cul­ture among mar­i­juana users. The lat­est round of data from the agency’s cannabis sur­vey shows more than 650,000, or 14 per cent, of users spent be­tween $251 and $500 in the last three months on cannabis while three per cent spent more than $1,000.

The num­bers paint the most de­tailed pic­ture to date about Cana­di­ans spend­ing habits on a drug that will be le­gal­ized in less than a week on Oct. 17, as the agency and oth­ers try to get a han­dle on the mar­ket and what it means for pol­icy-mak­ers, com­pa­nies and con­sumers. Sta­tis­tics Canada of­fi­cials say they plan to pull point-of-sale in­for­ma­tion from le­gal­ized cannabis pur­chases to fig­ure out how much peo­ple spend and its im­pact on the econ­omy. That will in­volve ex­tend­ing the use of scan­ner in­for­ma­tion to bet­ter mea­sure con­sumer spend­ing.

As part of the agency’s mod­ern­iza­tion ef­forts, it is ex­per­i­ment­ing with a num­ber of new ways to get in­for­ma­tion from Cana­di­ans with­out hav­ing to call them up at home, among other tra­di­tional col­lec­tion meth­ods. Of­fi­cials said Thurs­day that they are run­ning a pi­lot project at borders to ping trav­ellers’ mo­bile de­vices to get more de­tails about tourism.

The na­tional sta­tis­tics of­fice can com­pel any pri­vate com­pany in the coun­try to hand over data and plans to test the reach of its leg­isla­tive author­ity by turn­ing first to on­line plat­forms like Airbnb and Uber be­fore ask­ing for­eign-based com­pa­nies for ac­cess to their data hold­ings on Cana­di­ans. Sta­tis­tics Canada will launch na­tional con­sul­ta­tions next week as part of the agency’s centennial to learn more about the in­for­ma­tion needs of Cana­di­ans so that it can bet­ter tailor its pro­grams, with cannabis be­ing a prime ex­am­ple.

Try­ing to get a han­dle on cannabis sta­tis­tics was no easy task when the agency de­cided to mea­sure its us­age and im­pacts. Sta­tis­tics Canada has thus far re­lied on crowd­sourced data, but that will change next week when stores, prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries start sup­ply­ing de­tails about sales. The agency says about 4.6 mil­lion peo­ple over age 15, or about 15 per cent of that age group, re­ported us­ing cannabis in the past three months, mir­ror­ing sim­i­lar num­bers from ear­lier this year. About six per cent of users re­ported us­ing cannabis ei­ther daily or al­most ev­ery day, and three per cent re­ported be­ing weekly users.

Some of the agency’s work on spend­ing and con­sump­tion were used as the ba­sis for a re­port from the C.D. Howe In­sti­tute re­leased Thurs­day that ar­gues some users will con­tinue to spend money in the il­le­gal drug mar­ket that the Lib­er­als want to quash through le­gal­iza­tion.

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