16 January 2020

Daily users account for more than 80 per cent of all cannabis consumed in Australia, according to new research from The University of Queensland.

Lead author Dr Gary Chan from UQ’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research said the findings were similar to alcohol consumption, where daily users accounted for the majority of total consumption.

“Between 2007 and 2016, 16 per cent of cannabis users consumed the drug daily and this group accounted for more than 80 per cent of all cannabis consumed in the country,” Dr Chan said.

“In other words, the majority of cannabis was consumed by a small proportion of people who used it daily.

“This suggests harm caused by cannabis use is likely to fall on a small proportion of users.”

Dr Chan said with the legalisation of recreational cannabis use gaining momentum in the last few years, these findings must be considered in future cannabis policies.

“Cannabis legalisation needs to be accompanied by policies that discourage heavy use, such as a tax based on cannabis potency, restrictions on advertising, strengthening social norms that discourage heavy consumption and screening and intervening in the case of heavy cannabis users in primary care medical settings.”

Another key result from the study was that the prevalence of cannabis use increased slightly – from 8.9 per cent in 2007 to 10.5 per cent in 2016.

“This small increase in cannabis use is likely due to a more liberal attitude towards cannabis use compared to ten years ago,” Dr Chan said.

“People are also more interested in its medicinal value now.

“However, it should be noted that at the moment, the science of cannabis’ medicinal use is weak, and cannabis is a drug that is linked to mental health problems.”

The research team included co-author and key adviser for governments worldwide on cannabis policies UQ’s Professor Wayne Hall, and used four large nationally representative surveys of substance use in Australia to estimate the proportion of total cannabis consumed by daily users. 

The study was published in the scientific journal Addiction.

Media: Dr Gary Chan, [email protected], 0422 756 698; Kirsten O’Leary, UQ Communications, [email protected], +61 73365 7436.

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