Legalization sparks curiosity in people who haven’t used pot in years or ever

Canada legalized weed in October

Cindi Phelps, manager of the Tamarack Cannabis Boutique in Kimberley, B.C., is seen in a handout photo. Cindi Phelps never imagined herself running a pot shop. She smoked weed as a teenager, but as an adult she says she became “cranky” about cannabis, endlessly lecturing her sons and judging everyone who touched the stuff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Cindi Phelps

Cindi Phelps never imagined herself running a pot shop. She smoked weed as a teenager, but as an adult she says she became “cranky” about cannabis, endlessly lecturing her kids and judging everyone who touched the stuff.

It was only when she neared 50 that she realized marijuana could soothe her pain from a chronic health issue. Now that she manages the Tamarack Cannabis Boutique in Kimberley, B.C., Phelps can relate to customers who are nervous about trying pot for the first time in decades — or ever.

About 15 to 20 per cent of her customers fall into this category, and most are baby boomers, she said.

“They had their kids. They had their family. Now they’re retired and they’d like to try it again,” she said. “It’s legal, they don’t feel they’re going to get arrested for it.”

When Canada legalized weed on Oct. 17, 2018, it wasn’t clear how it would affect the stigma around cannabis or the habits of non-marijuana users. Six months later, early data and interviews with store operators suggest a considerable number of Canadians are lighting up for the first time.

READ MORE: Edibles legalization fraught with hurdles, lack of clarity, companies say

Nearly 14 per cent of cannabis users surveyed by Statistics Canada from mid-November to mid-December had just begun using weed within the previous three months. The period they were asked about includes time before and after legalization, but the percentage of new users jumped noticeably compared with previous quarters, when they ranged from 4.7 to 7.8 per cent.

The agency found that new users spanned all age groups. However, use among people aged 24 to 35 declined slightly in the months as legalization was unfolding, while it grew among all age categories above 35.

Legalization has drawn a whole new segment of people who prefer to use legal cannabis and are willing to pay more for it, said Jennifer Lee, the lead partner managing the cannabis sector for consulting firm Deloitte.

“Government oversight does bring a whole new cohort to the market,” she said. “They could have tried it on the black market. They just chose not to, because they wanted to know it was a safe product.”

Generally, she said her research has shown that people over 55 are most enticed by this market, because they dabbled in marijuana years ago and can afford to pay more for legal weed.

People with no cannabis experience often ask for cannabidiol, also known as CBD, a non-psychoactive extract that is used to treat pain and anxiety, said Mike Babins, owner of Evergreen Cannabis in Vancouver.

“They come in here saying, ‘I have no desire to get high. I just want CBD,’ ” Babins said. “And we say, ‘Why? What’s so wrong with being high? Do you think it’s like all those old propaganda movies and you’re going to think you’re a bird and you’re going to jump out the window with all the pretty colours and your family will find you dead on the front lawn?’ “

Sometimes people still want to stick with CBD, but for those who are willing to try cannabis containing THC, the mind-altering ingredient, staff guide them toward lower-dose products and advise them to start slow and enjoy their experience, he said.

Customers have said they’ve been waiting for it to be legal and they’re tired of drinking too much alcohol at night, Babins said.

“They have a whole bottle of wine after dinner instead of a glass of wine with dinner,” he said. “A lot are just saying, ‘I have too much stress and I’ve been dealing with it the wrong way.’ “

Many first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-timers wind up becoming repeat customers, Babins and other store owners said.

Statistics Canada data also indicates former users are considering picking up the habit again. The most recent survey found 19 per cent of Canadians think they will use cannabis in the next three months, compared with the 15 per cent who are current users.

Former users were more likely to report that they will use than people who had never used — 13 per cent compared with 2 per cent.

Krystian Wetulani, founder of City Cannabis Co., said his two licensed locations in Vancouver have seen a huge uptick in customers aged 45 to 65 since they started selling legal cannabis.

People in this age group seem to feel more comfortable now because they know the cannabis is tested to meet Health Canada standards, he said, and they don’t have to sign their name to anything, such as a medical-dispensary membership card.

Toronto’s first legal cannabis store The Hunny Pot has also seen a “huge influx” of first-time consumers, including locals and tourists, since it opened two weeks ago, said communications officer Cameron Brown.

As for those who haven’t used cannabis for decades, they’re surprised by how much variety there is now, he said.

“There is a lot of education,” he said.

“(We’re) making sure that we’re going through all the different steps with them, talking about the different THC levels, talking about the different strains and how they affect different people, but still trying to find what will work best for them.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

Lions’ Easter Sunday well past 40 year mark in Barriere

The Annual Barriere Lions Club Pancake Breakfast and Easter Egg Hunt has… Continue reading

Bingo fundraiser helps After School Program

Bingo was on the agenda for the North Thompson Activity Centre Society… Continue reading

Mascon fiber optics being installed in Barriere

A work crew was spotted last week on Apr. 17 at the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Haana Edensaw presented her speech in Xaad Kil, Masset dialect of the Haida language

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

Most Read