85% of Australia's Weed is Consumed by Daily Users

A new study has revealed that a vast majority (85%) of the total cannabis consumed in Australia is consumed by just 16% of cannabis users.

A new study emerging from the University of Queensland has revealed that over 80% of Australia's cannabis consumption is due to a small but over-represented 16% of cannabis users, who smoke the plant daily.

The author of the study, Dr Gary Chan from UQ's Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, stated that there isn't anything particularly surprising about the findings of the study, given that we see similar patterns emerge with alcohol consumption.

"Between 2007 and 2016, 16 percent 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."

The finding of the study pose a unique challenge to legislators that are considering recreational cannabis legalization in the near future, as any health or social costs that come alongside a liberal cannabis policy will be disproportionately borne by a small percentage of the population.

This is particularly prudent given the enormous momentum surrounding cannabis legalization that's currently occurring, with Illinois most recently in the United States, coupled with the fact that the MLB just removed cannabis from it's banned substances list.

Then there's New Zealand on the precipice of a referendum to gauge the public's approval of recreational cannabis laws, places like Hawaii have recently decriminalized the plant and Italy and Mexico are considering loosening their stances on weed too.

Dr. Gary Chan responded to the findings, saying that "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."

The study also revealed that 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 Gary Chan, Lead Author of the study

"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."

While cannabis legalization has a litany of benefits, like bringing huge amounts of tax revenue to the government, reducing opioid and alcohol consumption, eliminating the black market and so on, the breakneck speed with which the cannabis landscape is changing is outpacing our knowledge on the plant. The industry is still emerging from the stigma which lingers from the War on Drugs, which has historically hampered research to the point of being virtually non-existent.

Governments do not yet know what the long-term effects of consuming large quantities of cannabis are on individuals, and for this reason, the FDA has expressed uncertainty when it comes to CBD products – simply because we don't know what the effects with these products are.

Though with the proliferation of biotech companies racing toward clinical validation, it's likely we'll continue to see a flood of research surrounding cannabis use, particularly in a medicinal setting, pouring forth for the foreseeable future.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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