Perceptions of Canadian Consumers: Cannabis & Edibles – A New Assessment

Canadians expressing increased support for cannabis legalization, but remain cautious towards edibles.

Halifax, June 21, 2021— Canada is well into its third year with legalized cannabis. A new study from Brian Sterling, Research Associate and Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Senior Director at the Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytics Lab, shows that Canadians are less eager for edibles than they said they were prior to legalization; however, support for cannabis legalization has risen to nearly 80 percent.

The study, titled “Perceptions of Canadian Consumers: Cannabis & Edibles – A New Assessment” compares Canadian attitudes toward cannabis products with previous studies conducted in 2017 (prior to legalization) and in 2019.

Do Canadians embrace edibles?

“We were intrigued that Canadians seem to be less enthusiastic about edibles since cannabis became legal,” said Dr. Charlebois. “25% of cannabis consumers say they typically prefer edibles, down from 36% in 2019.” The report says nearly one in four Canadians would order a cannabis dish at a restaurant: steady at 24% (compared to 25% in 2019).

“The results show 53% of Canadians are concerned that cannabis edibles may make it too easy to overconsume – this is high but a notable decrease from 60% in 2019”, said Brian Sterling, the principal investigator for the report. “Meanwhile, concern remains steady that greater access to edibles poses a risk to children and pets (66% are concerned with the risk for children; 60% for pets). These levels are consistent with our previous studies; Canadians remain cautious about the risks with edibles.”

Edibles attract people who are not interested in smoking: 14% of respondents indicated that they plan to consume more cannabis edibles in future. A similar portion say that they have increased cannabis consumption (in all formats) since the start of the COVID19 pandemic. Confections, such as gummies and hard candy, are the first choice for edibles by a wide margin (35% of cannabis consumers). Chocolates are the second popular choice; beverages are preferred by only 4%.

Have Canadian attitudes towards cannabis use changed?

Support for legalization has surged to over 78% of respondents (up from 49% in 2019), placing Canadians’ cannabis approval levels above those in some USA states. Disagreement with legalization has decreased to 14% (from 30% in the previous study). While 65% of Canadians say they do not mind if restaurants put edibles on their menus, the portion of “canna-curious” has dropped to 13% from 26%.

When considering social stigma, Sterling noted an overwhelming 56% of respondents now say that towns and cities should not be permitted to ban cannabis retailers within their municipal boundaries – almost a complete reversal of responses prior to legalization.  The data also clearly show that fewer Canadians are self-stigmatizing, with 57% saying they are not concerned about others knowing they consume cannabis recreationally. The same portion says they are not concerned about co-workers who do so.

The proportion of Canadians who buy only from legal sources has almost doubled to 60% from 38% in 2019.  Roughly 37% say they at least occasionally purchase cannabis from their ‘legacy sources’ – a substantial drop from the 60% reported in 2019.

Has legalization changed Canadian’s consumption habits?

55% of Canadians say that they now use cannabis or considering it; about 12% indicate they started only after legalization (twice the 6% level in 2019). From the survey, 24% of Canadians say they use cannabis mainly for recreational purposes; 10% reported that they take it medically, with 11% for health and wellness lifestyle reasons.

The study shows that 45% of cannabis consumers still typically buy dried flower; oil/tinctures are the preference for 22%. Vape cartridges comprise about 7% of first choices.

The study was conducted over ten days in May 2021, and surveyed 1,047 people across Canada, in both English and French. While not perfectly random, a typical randomized survey of this size 19 of 20 times would be accurate to about ±3%.


Media contact:

Brian Sterling, Research Associate,
Agri-Food Analytics Lab, Dalhousie University
416-402-4460 (mobile)

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Senior Director, 
Agri-Food Analytics Lab, Dalhousie University
902-222-4142 (mobile)


Download the report: