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Industry | 11.05.2021

Alcohol and Cannabis Sales Rose By $2.6B During The Pandemic In Canada, Here’s Why It’s An Issue

With alcohol and cannabis sales increasing, many are struggling with substance abuse issues and aren't getting the help they need.

On Thursday, a new study was published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open with research from Hamilton’s McMaster University, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and the Homewood Research Institute, which gave us some needed insight.

The research stated that alcohol and cannabis sales surpassed projections by over $2.6 billion throughout the pandemic, and it’s more than clear why this surge happened in the first place.

The research team used data from Statistics Canada to examine cannabis and alcohol sales from March 2020 through June 2021. The Director of McMaster’s Peter Boris Center for Addictions Research, James MacKillop, states that the team later compared their findings to the previous 16 months.

He concluded that alcohol sales were 5.5% higher than projected sales, meaning that people bought $1.86 billion more in alcohol than what was predicted before the pandemic. In terms of cannabis sales, they generated roughly 25% more than expected, totaling $811 million.

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Alcohol and cannabis use isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. MacKillop mentioned that since the research suggests how sales grew in these markets, we should also prepare plans to help those with increased substance abuse issues.

“We have to be careful about not going over our skis for this data, but I think it’s important for planning, for resourcing,” he told CBC News. “These sales figures give us clues into potential changes in behavioral patterns and can inform planning to address mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The program manager at Wayside House of Hamiton, Ryan Kitchen, couldn’t agree more. The Wayside House of Hamilton operates a 24-bed addiction and 36-bed sober living home and usually has a waitlist of about three months.

While abiding by pandemic protocol and regulations, Wayside had to cut the number of beds to maintain safety measures, which resulted in a doubled wait time of six months. Kitchen said that the pandemic indicates why more resources for addiction treatment need to be put in place since Wayside is almost at capacity once again.

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“It’s really, really important to be able to cut down on wait times and for an organization like ours to have access to a larger facility,” Kitchen said to CBC News. He mentioned that the new study results provide “one of the first national perspectives on changes in alcohol and cannabis use during the pandemic.”

In March 2020, the study notes that alcohol and cannabis sales increased by 15%, which explains why Wayside was dangerously overflowing.

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