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New Survey Shows Canadians Are Less Curious About Edibles Than We Were in 2017

 A new survey completed in May 2021 asked over 1,000 Canadians about their opinions, preferences for, and consumption of pot. The biggest surprise? Canadians are less curious about edibles now than they were pre-legalization.

Nearly two years after legal edibles hit retailer shelves, we are less eager to give them a try. While we may have been initially excited about the possibilities of weed gummies, THC-rich chocolate bars, and other infused treats, now it seems as if Canadians are wary.

But what’s behind this downward trend?

New Survey Indicates Canadians Still Love Flower Above All Else

In May, researchers Brian Sterling and Dr. Sylvain Charlebois at the University of Dalhousie surveyed 1,047 Canadians (and 1,036 Americans) over the span of two weeks. In part, the goal of this assessment was “to better understand the perceptions of USA and Canadian consumers regarding cannabis, including edibles.”

On both sides of the border, those surveyed are now more supportive of legalization than ever before. In the US, 75 percent of respondents support recreational legalization, with 78 percent support from Canadians.

In Canada, most people consume cannabis for recreation (24 percent), with medical (10 percent) and wellness (11 percent) as secondary reasons. Numbers are similar south of the border.

But, while roughly 50 percent of Canadians have tried cannabis since legalization (a full 52 percent purchasing at least once a month), respondents still overwhelmingly prefer flower over other product options.

According to the survey, only 24.5 percent claim that edible cannabis is their first choice, and just 13 percent of Canadians “plan to consume more edibles in future.” 

These numbers have fallen significantly since the first instance the Dalhousie team completed the survey. In 2017, 46 percent of Canadians told the surveyors they were interested in edibles, but now that number is sitting at just 27 percent. Surprisingly, a full 60 percent are entirely “uninterested” in this method of consumption.

How did our love affair with edibles take such a nosedive?

Waning Interest in Edibles May be Impacted by Dose and Price

In the beginning, Canadians were very enthusiastic about edibles, as the numbers from the 2017 Dalhousie survey show. But since the launch of legal edibles in Canada in 2019, something has disrupted this excitement. 

First, it may have to do with the strict per-package THC limits. Compared to established legal markets in the U.S., the federal government had a heavy hand in limiting the per-package dose.

Legally, each package of infused goods may contain only 10 milligrams of THC. In California, as an American comparison, a package total can hit up to 100 milligrams. 

White Rabbit OG cannabis edibles
Edibles in Canada, like these sour peach gummies, are limited to 10 milligrams per package.

While 10 milligrams of THC may offer a good starting point, many consumers prefer higher doses, especially for medicinal applications. Consumers who need or want more THC per session have to purchase several packages, which is wasteful and costly. 

Secondly, legal edibles are expensive. Looking at examples from the BC Cannabis Store and Tweed (a retailer serving central Canada), a typical pack of edibles starts at $4.99 and can often reach $9.99. Paying upwards of $10 for 10 mg of THC is certainly not affordable, especially for Canadians with daily habits or chronic medicinal needs.

More Options on the Illicit Market, But Market Share Eroding

Both the cost and the limits on THC have left the door wide open for the illicit market. Black market mail order marijuana companies sell edibles with much higher doses of THC. While 20 to 50 milligrams is the norm, some brands are advertising 1,000 milligrams per piece. 

More importantly, the illicit market offers all of these products at a fraction of the price. The Laughing Monkey Extreme 1000-milligram edibles, for example, is roughly $0.05 per milligram. Compared with almost a dollar per milligram on the legal side, the price difference is astronomical, and hard to ignore.

While some Canadians may be willing to keep buying from the illicit market, most have now switched to the legal one. By the third quarter of 2020, legal sales in Canada surpassed illicit transactions for the first time since legalization. Now, as the Dahlhouse survey reported, 60 percent of Canadians have made the switch. 

So, while the edibles Canadians want may be available on the illicit market, most people these days are shopping from licensed retailers. Unfortunately, with strict dose limits and incredibly high prices, the edibles offered through these legal channels are not appealing.

In California, edible cannabis products are limited to 100 milligrams, rather than 10.

Safety Concerns About Edibles Still Linger

Safety is another reason Canadians are less curious about edibles as they once were. The Dalhousie team reported that 61 percent of respondents were worried about pets accessing cannabis, and 66 expressed the same fear around children. 

Many national news outlets have reported on edibles leading to emergency room visits. For example, in 2020, the CBC reported on a “spike in children visiting ER after consuming edibles,” while the CTV reported that “edible use in adults is linked to increased ICU admissions among children.”

But it’s not just news stories scaring off Canadians. Some of the fear may be based on anecdotal evidence shared among friends and family. With so many Canadians now dabbling in adult-use cannabis (and many for the first time), there are plenty of stories about Mom overdoing it with her first edible or a serious scare when Grandpa confused the dose size.

Better Legal Options and Better Edibles Education

Canadians are less canna-curious about edibles these days, and for several reasons. First and foremost are the restrictions on dose size per package. An edible with just 10 milligrams per package does not serve the consumers who prefer larger doses, whether they need it for stronger medicinal benefit or better recreational effects.

Secondly, edibles are expensive in Canada. Through the legal channels, it costs anywhere from 50 cents to one dollar per milligram of THC. So, for those who prefer higher doses, edibles are simply not cost effective.

Finally, Canadians are still concerned about overdoing it with edibles, as well as accidental consumption by pets and children. And, while this crowd of Canadians may not overlap with the portion of the country looking for stronger infused candies, it all plays into the overall decline in preference for edibles.

Sterling, the lead researcher on the Dahlhouse report, explained to the National Post, that “…unless the Cannabis Act changes, I don’t see a whole lot of future when it comes to edibles (in Canada). But I guess that over time, things will eventually change.” 

If edible curiosity and consumption take off again in this country, we will need to see improved THC limits. But paired with higher doses of THC, there will also need to be a public education campaign about safe dose size and overconsumption.

More Stories by Jessica McKeil:

Legal vs. Illicit Weed: BC Trimmers Founder Angela Marks Weighs In On The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Cannabis And Sex? 5 Tips For Couples From Intimacy Expert & Harvard Physician Dr. Jordan Tishler

Will Cannabis Delivery Be The New Normal In A Post-Pandemic World?