A new study shows that four years after Canada legalized marijuana for adult use, nearly six out of every ten neighborhoods in the country is located within a five-minute drive of a cannabis dispensary, demonstrating the level of access afforded to consumers.
The study, which was a collaborative effort by investigators from various universities and research institutes in Ottawa and Toronto, also showed that over the course of a four-year span only 7 percent of retail cannabis locations permanently closed.
The team of researchers collected longitudinal data regarding the status and location of “all legal cannabis stores in Canada” and determined that as of October 2022 there were 3,305 retail locations operating. Researchers then cross-referenced dispensary location data against “dissemination areas” as defined by Statistics Canada.
The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Review last week and funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, also examined per capita stores and sales in addition to analyzing store closure rates and consumer retail accessibility.
“Over 4 years, per capita stores and per capita sales increased each year by an average of 122.3% and 91.7%, respectively, with larger increases in private versus public systems (4.01 times greater for per capita stores and 2.46 times greater for per capita sales),” the researchers said.
The research team pointed out that Canada’s legal cannabis market “expanded enormously” during the first four years following the launch of legal adult-use sales and that there is “considerable variation in access” between different Canadian markets.
“The legal cannabis market in Canada expanded enormously over the first 4 years following legalisation.”
Leading up to the launch of legal adult-use sales in late 2018, Statistics Canada estimated in a report at the time that roughly 90 percent of Canadians lived within 10km (or about 6 miles) of a liquor store. By comparison, only 35 percent of Canada’s population was expected to live within the same distance of a planned cannabis store when legal adult-use sales launched according to the same analysis.
Multiple studies have found positive outcomes in neighborhoods where legal cannabis dispensaries are located. For example, a study conducted by the University of New Mexico in 2021 found that unemployment fell in Colorado counties in which dispensaries opened post-legalization, compared to counties in which dispensaries did not open.
A separate study from 2021 found that “higher medical and recreational storefront dispensary counts are associated with reduced opioid related death rates, particularly deaths associated with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”
A study from 2020 examined crime rates in Colorado before and after the state’s enactment of legalization and the researchers “observed a substantial reduction in certain types of crimes, namely, property crime, larceny, and simple assault, in border counties in the Colorado region.”
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