The legal cannabis market in Canada is far bigger than expected, says one cannabis industry consultant, and he has the numbers to prove it.
After seeing what he felt was a lack of solid data about the future of the Canadian cannabis market, Colin Firth teamed up with Oraclepoll Research earlier this year to produce the Canadian Cannabis Report, an in-depth, 75-question survey of 5,000 Canadians completed this past summer.
His desire, he says, was to give industry people, policy makers and average Canadians a better understanding of the size and scope of the future legal cannabis market in Canada.
While most surveys in Canada tend to include around 1,000-1,500 Canadians, often online or with only a few questions, Firth says he took the time to craft a much more in depth series of questions to try and provide more clarity for those making the laws that will regulate this industry, as well as those operating in or seeking to operate in it.
The respondents were found randomly by phone, says Firth, and the average response time was 15-18 minutes. The fact that so many Canadians took the time to discuss the topic shows the national attitude is shifting, he says.
“It was about a year ago when we started looking at doing a detailed market analysis of the emerging cannabis sector,” says Firth. “It was a year ago about June that we started researching it, speaking to people throughout the industry in a stealth mode and finding out where they are and what sort of information they might be looking for in terms of a broad overview of the Canadian market.
"I believe there has been a shift in people's attitudes from gradually moving up to [The Cannabis Act], and now people are saying ‘Okay. wow, this is actually going to happen,’ so I think people are open to the possibility that this is actually going to happen, as opposed to an election promise." - Colin Firth
“When legislation was tabled in April, we hit the ground running. And when we had a chance to speak to exhibitors at the Lift Expo in Toronto in May, and we spoke to nearly every exhibitor, we got a great idea of what people needed to know.
“We were really surprised that there was not much out there with respect to current market data, and that’s when we put our foot to the accelerator and started full steam ahead on the project.”
While the Parliamentary Budget Offices’ (PBO) own numbers show about three and a half to four million cannabis users in Canada age 15 and over, Firth says his survey shows about twice that. And where the PBO estimates that post legalization there will be about five million consumers 15 and over, Firth says his numbers are also more than twice that.
“Our data shows that currently, we have seven million admitted cannabis consumers in Canada, and over 11 million projected users over 18—double what the projections have been and what the government has been using as baseline numbers.
"With our groundbreaking cannabis market research, it is safe to say that we have a more thorough understanding of Canadians' views on cannabis more than anyone else in our country. Our 60 page consumer research report includes current and post-legalization consumption levels, annual volume projections of required product and dollar-sales projections that far exceed any previous estimates, and we believe that our research bodes very well for the emerging industry. For current Licensed Producers, LP applicants and industry stakeholders, our report provides deep market analysis that is critical for planning ahead, while also providing encouraging market insight for investor relations and fundraising initiatives for those looking to enter this exciting sector." -Colin Firth
“The whole idea of what we were trying to do here is shed some light on this industry. The industry is so new and up and coming and represents a number of great opportunities for Canadians. I can’t help but think that licensed producers, applicants, all levels of government, healthcare associations and member associations (including HR), this is data that they all require because they need someone to shed some light on where this is going in the industry.
“You need to have an understanding of what is going to happen, because, based on our numbers, this is going to be bigger than anyone has anticipated or planned for and here we are providing them with that data that can help them to have a better understanding of what to expect as we move towards legalizing."
“This is uncharted territory for all of us. We wanted to provide a guidebook with some data that’s going to help people be better prepared.”
Firth says he thinks that as people begin to see legalizations as more of a reality rather than just an idea that more are likely to be open about their own consumption or desire to consume cannabis once it becomes legal.
“Our research was done from July 4-August 7, so our data is fresh and current, and it’s post Bill C-45 tabling. I believe there has been a shift in people's attitudes from gradually moving up to [The Cannabis Act], and now people are saying ‘okay. wow, this is actually going to happen,’ so I think people are open to the possibility that this is actually going to happen, as opposed to an election promise."
“People now are more open to the possibility this is actually going to happen. The process has started now. People realize that this is something that is in our future, and having cannabis in our life is an option. We’ve got a really great opportunity here to show the world what Canada can do, and I think we can handle this.”
Some data points from the survey Colin shared:
63% of respondents favour a straight retail model. 30% prefer an online option.
57% acceptance rate in support of Trudeau’s efforts to legalize cannabis, with the highest in BC, Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.
Sask, Quebec and Maritimes are below 50% threshold.
32% of current cannabis consumers have consumed edibles.
24% of current cannabis users have visited or shopped at a cannabis dispensary.
77% of current and potential cannabis users will purchase cannabis products from licensed growers (bodes well for the industry).
60% of respondents chose smoking as their preferred method of consuming cannabis. 22% prefer edibles and 18% prefer vaping.
24% of current and potential cannabis users who also consume alcohol claim they are likely to replace alcohol with cannabis.
65% of all respondents believe that licensed growers should be able to open up their own retail store once legal.
56% of all respondents believe cannabis lounges should be permitted.
72% believe the federal government should pardon and eliminate criminal records for all previous and current simple cannabis possession convictions.
Featured image by Sroalf.