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How has COVID Changed Purchasing & Consumption?

COVID-19 has greatly impacted consumption patterns and the number of people purchasing cannabis in Canada.

New Consumers

Neither Cannabis 2.0 nor COVID have had a notable impact on cannabis trial in Canada according to a recent survey of consumers conducted by Cannatrack. There is no evidence that there are new consumers, or ‘intenders’ who are joining the market.

Active Consumers

However, although the total number of consumers is stagnant, active participation is up. The proportion of Canadians who replied in May that they consumed cannabis over the past four weeks increased 1.2%, which equates to an increase of over 365,000 people nationally. That increase indicated that past/lapsed consumers are returning to the category, or that very infrequent consumers are now consuming more often.

Purchasers

Over the past 12 months, from May 2019 to May 2020, there was a 2.1% increase in the number of people who purchase cannabis, which is 622,000 additional cannabis buyers in Canada.

Online Sales

Online cannabis sales in Canada have been steadily rising since legalization in 2018, accounting for 30% of all sales in early 2020. COVID-19 appears to have significantly increased the proportion of purchases made online, as that number rose to 36% from March to May. April and May represented all-time high levels of online purchases of 38% and 40% respectively.

The portion of claimed legal channel purchases made online have also risen by 5.3% in March to May 2020 compared to the previous quarter—possibly in part due to the better online experience and accessibility in the legal market. Hopefully we won’t see that trend reverse as regulators disallow delivery from retailers after emergency orders are rescinded.

Consumption Occasions

COVID-19 has had some clear impacts on consumption occasions, with fewer people availing of their traditional consumption occasions. As an occasion to consume, active/creative pursuits, along with going to winding down/sleep have seen the most significant increases from March to May 2020. Not surprisingly, over 80% of people consumed alone.

Reason for Consumption

The pandemic also caused some material shifts in the reasons people cite for consuming cannabis. Other medical/health reasons and pain relief have seen the largest increases over this period, while ‘being high’ has seen the largest decrease. The societal impact of isolation and quarantine may be playing a role in causing people to consider cannabis more often in a health and wellness capacity.