How mental health factors into cannabis use

New Vivintel data reveals the channels, formats and demographics of a growing use case.
Medical Marijuana/ Cannabis And Accessories

Over one in nine Canadians with a mental health condition use cannabis to help treat it, and there is significant potential for growth, according to the latest study on cannabis consumers by Vivintel.

Vivintel teamed up with cannabis consumer research firm Strainprint to survey over 5,000 Canadians, using real time session data from the latter’s medical user tracking app, to help shed light on mental health applications for cannabis.

The number of cannabis users overall has climbed by roughly one million since 2019. And according to figures, while the number of Canadians using cannabis for health and wellness reasons ticked up slightly from 2019 to 2021 compared to all cannabis users, the increase is being driven by Canadians using cannabis to treat a mental health condition, suggesting an area for future growth.

This is largely a result of reported mental health conditions going up over that time frame, particularly among those younger than 35, a demo which reported a 40% increase in such a condition over a two-year period. Overall: 31% more Canadians are reporting a mental health condition since 2019.

Across all demos of cannabis user, there is wide agreement regarding its perceived efficacy to treat mental health, with an overwhelming majority agreeing that cannabis can offer wellness or therapeutic benefits, with longer-term users (six years or more) leading the way (96%) versus novices (89%) and those that have been using for one to five years (86%).

Moreover, treating a mental health condition is one the top two drivers for those reporting that they are very or somewhat likely to try cannabis in the near future, second only to treating general pain (47%).

Three quarters of respondents who used cannabis to treat mental health conditions sourced it from legal channels. However, most of them are doing so from retail channels instead of medical ones, with 20% reporting medical authorization for cannabis use.

Long-term users for mental health tend to disproportionately opt for bud/flowers (62%), whilst novices with under a year of cannabis experience favour edibles (24%) and vapes (23%). Moderately experienced users favor edibles, buds and vapes (29%, 27% and 18%)

Males are slightly more frequent mental health users, according to the data, and the group is slightly younger than the average cannabis user. Younger users also predominately turned to cannabis as a coping mechanism, thanks to COVID. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people are also 30% more likely than the average Canadian to use cannabis for mental health.

Regionally, according to the report, there are differences too.

Users for mental health in Ontario, for example, skew 35 to 49, are recent adopters or identify as being part of a diverse community. By contrast, those in Quebec are less frequent users, with lower incomes than the national average and over index to young men and those living alone. In the West, excluding B.C., it’s women under 50 with high household income driving demand, and those with children in the home.

Both Ontario and the Prairies over index when it comes to potential cannabis mental health users.