Cannabis use among older adults in Canada: Exploring perspectives and experiences following cannabis legalization

Executive Summary

Prepared for Health Canada

Prepared by Narrative Research
Call-Up Number: CW2332079
Requisition Reference Number: HT372-234523
Contracted Value: $123,576.80
Contract Date: 2023-09-27
Delivery Date: 2023-12-08
POR number: 056-23

For more information, please contact:

Ce rapport est aussi disponible en français

Cannabis use among older adults in Canada: Exploring perspectives and experiences following cannabis legalization - Executive Summary

Prepared for Health Canada

Supplier Name: Narrative Research
December 2023

This public opinion research report presents the results of 20 online focus groups with adults 55 years and older, specifically two groups using cannabis and two groups with those not using cannabis in each of five regions: British Columbia/Yukon/Northwest Territories, Prairies, Ontario/Nunavut, Atlantic provinces, and Quebec. Sessions were divided by gender (male and female) and participants included a mix of ages, household income, education, household situation, and ethnic background. The Quebec sessions were conducted in French while all other sessions were held in English. The fieldwork was conducted between November 1st and 8th, 2023.

Cette publication est aussi disponible en français sous le titre :

Consommation de cannabis chez les personnes âgées au Canada : exploration des perspectives et des expériences à la suite de la légalisation du cannabis

This publication may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes only. Prior written permission must be obtained from Health Canada. For more information on this report, please contact Health Canada at:

Catalogue Number:

International Standard Book Number (ISBN):

Related publications (registration number: POR-056-23):
Catalogue Number: H14-595/2024F-PDF (Final Report, French)
ISBN 978-0-660-71133-1

© His Majesty the King in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Health, 2023

Executive Summary

Narrative Research Inc.
Call-Up Number: CW2332079
Requisition Reference Number: HT372-234523
POR Registration Number: 056-12
Contract Award Date: 2023-09-27
Contracted Value: $123,576.80


Cannabis consumption is on the rise in Canada, with residents having broad access to in-store and online regulated stores, and increased availability of product choices and different modes of consumption. There has been a notable increase in cannabis use among older adults in Canada who are 55 and older since cannabis was legalized in late 2018. This age group is at unique risk for cannabis-related harms, given physiological and psychological changes associated with aging, and the increased risk of experiencing adverse drug interactions with cannabis due to the higher prevalence of comorbidities and poly-medication use. Much of the emerging evidence base concerning older adults stems predominately from quantitative data sources including population-level surveys and health administrative databases. These quantitative sources do not capture older adults' perspectives or experiences surrounding cannabis, especially in the years following legalization. For instance, little is known about the perceived impacts of cannabis legalization among older adults regarding a multitude of outcomes including: changes in usage patterns, reasons for use, reasons for accessing cannabis from regulated and/or unregulated sources, attitudes, knowledge of health risks, and exposure to risk-messaging. Hence, increasing cannabis use in this at-risk population warrants further attention.

Research findings can help inform different elements of public health strategy (e.g., public education, data monitoring, Sex and Gender Based Analysis plus), and enhance the Cannabis Act's public health approach to protecting public health and public safety of older Canadians.

The objectives of this POR were to explore older adults:

Research Methodology

To achieve these objectives, a qualitative research approach was undertaken with the fieldwork conducted from November 1st to 8th, 2023. The research entailed a total of 20 online focus groups in five regions (British Columbia/Yukon/Northwest Territories, Prairies, Ontario/Nunavut, Quebec, and Atlantic provinces). Participants included adults 55 years and older, and in each region, two groups were conducted with those using cannabis and two groups were conducted with those not using cannabis. People using cannabis were defined as those who had used cannabis at least once for non-medical and/or medical purposes during the past five years. Participants defined as not using cannabis included those who had never used cannabis, and those who had not used it for at least ten years.

Groups were divided by gender, with a female-identified and a male-identified group conducted for each of the user segments in each region. Participants in each session included a mix of ages (within range), household situation, household income, education, and ethnic background. All lived in their respective regions for at least two years. Those currently employed, or retired from, a sensitive occupation, or who have others in their household in this situation, were excluded from the research. All participants had access to a computer or tablet with high-speed internet that was equipped with a webcam, or a smartphone, to take part in the session.

From 200 recruited individuals, 188 took part across sessions. Each group discussion lasted between 90 minutes and two hours, and all participants received an incentive of $125 in appreciation for their time. One additional incentive was provided to a recruited individual who was unable to participate in the discussion due to technical issues at the beginning of the focus group session. All discussions were held in English except in Quebec where the sessions were conducted in French. All participants were recruited per the specifications for the Government of Canada. Recruitment was conducted through qualitative panels stored on Canadian servers, with follow up calls to confirm the details provided and to ensure quotas were met.

This report presents the findings from the study. Caution must be exercised when interpreting the results from this study, as qualitative research is exploratory and cannot infer causality.

Political Neutrality Certification

I hereby certify as a Representative of Narrative Research that the deliverables fully comply with the Government of Canada political neutrality requirements outlined in the Directive on the Management of Communications. Specifically, the deliverables do not include information on electoral voting intentions, political party preferences, standings with the electorate or ratings of the performance of a political party or its leaders.


Margaret Brigley, CEO & Partner | Narrative Research
Date: December 14, 2023

Key Findings

The following provides key highlights from the research:


Reasons for Use


Access & Sourcing


Public Education