A new Government study has revealed that COVID-19 changed how often people use cannabis, but not its overall supply.
In the study, researchers Laura Doherty, Tom Sullivan and Alexandra Voce took data from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Drug Use Monitoring in Australia program (DUMA). This data was collected from police detainees throughout July and August 2020.
A total of 446 people from Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney were included in the study. Eighty-three per cent of the participants were men, and 70% described themselves as “non-indigenous”. The participants had a median age of 34.
Researchers in the study were looking specifically at cannabis demand and supply throughout COVID-19. To examine demand, researchers analysed the self-reported drug use habits of 214 people and compared them to pre-pandemic numbers. They found that participants used cannabis “significantly more often than before the pandemic”. Specifically, median use increased from 15 days a month to 25 days a month.
They also noted that people reported that their cannabis use was “recreational” less than before the pandemic.
In the second research stage, researchers analysed data from 192 participants who used cannabis in April and May (2020). In this cohort, researchers found that people whose employment, financial, housing, or mental health changed during COVID-19 were more likely to increase their cannabis use. Seventeen per cent of participants also substituted cannabis for other drugs during COVID-19 (specifically, benzodiazepines, meth, alcohol, opiates and others). Despite increasing their overall cannabis use, participants used similar quantities of cannabis per session as before the pandemic.
Despite pandemic restrictions, only a third of participants noticed a change in cannabis supply. Participants reported no change in the “quality” of cannabis, and only 22% of participants noticed a change in cannabis’s price.
According to researchers, these results show that people used cannabis more during the pandemic, though COVID-19 had little impact on cannabis’s supply.
This study suggests patterns of cannabis use may have been altered by COVID-19 restrictions, but that cannabis supply appears to have been resistant to the impacts of the pandemic.
The study results were also consistent increases in cannabis use found in Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program results from 2020. These showed that Australians consume 15,500 mg of THC (one of cannabis’s psychoactive components) daily. Accounting for an average THC level of 15%, that means Australians consume roughly 2.6 tonnes of cannabis every day.