mp bill blair misquotes statistics canada pot user rates

MP Bill Blair, Canada's so called "Pot Czar" was quoted in a March 30, 2017 National Post article written by John Ivison as saying, "Forty percent of young adults in Canada use this drug and it is shocking how many think it does not affect their ability to drive."

In today's environment where the media has by and large become a surrogate of the billionaire funded North American pot lobby, the truth just keeps getting harder and harder to find in the front pages of our newspapers and other media outlets.  Now, more than ever you have to be an independent critical thinker in order get to the truth.  You will be faced with everything from honest confusion, innocent misstatements, obfuscation, downright blatant language manipulation, and intentional lies.

So we thought it would be interesting for you if we focused on Bill Blair's quote and use it as an excellent example of how easy it to confuse the public when one is loose with the facts.  We will critically analyze this to show you how it is factually incorrect and does a huge disservice to the quality of public discourse around the very serious issue of legalizing recreational use of high potency-marijuana.  Let's have some fun debunking this one.

statistics canada survey data

The most recent and respected data on rates of usage of marijuana in Canada are found in a report called "Prevalence and correlates of marijuana use in Canada, 2012".  It was published in 2015 by Statistics Canada and based upon the most recent census data.

If we give Mr. Blair the benefit of the doubt which we ought to, then perhaps he mistakenly referred to the wrong statistic and accidentally passed it off as another.

The data below shows that he seems to have quoted the life-time rate for the entire population having ever used marijuana, even just once and then perhaps never again.  Unfortunately he claimed that 40% of young adults "use" today's high-potency pot inferring some degree of habituality.

This surely cannot be derived from the data.

Stats Canada Key Findings

Entire population (15 or older) lifetime use*: 42.5%

Entire population (15 or older) past-year use: 12.2%

Past-year (15-17) use: 20%

Past-year (18-24) use: 33.3%

Past-year (25-44) use: 15.6%

Past-year (45-64) use: 6.7%

Past-year (65 or older) use: 0.8%

*Use defined as once or more during the stated time period.

Mr. Blair says "40% of Young adults use..."  hang on, not so fast

Does he really mean 40% of the 15-24 year-old cohort is using pot regularly?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "use" as a habitual or customary act or practice.

The data sure does not show that. You are forgiven if you took Mr. Blair for his word because that is what his message surely implied and yet as we can see, it is just not true. 

Let's be kind and give Mr. Blair a "mulligan" and assume he unintentionally misspoke. The problem is the magnitude of the error in his statement.

Sloppy With The Facts

At most, 33.3% of 17-24 year-olds have tried it at least once in the past year but presumably lots of them will stay away from it.

Perhaps what he ought to have said was the reported use in the past-year for the entire population is only 12.2% but that would not have sounded as dramatic.

88% of Canadians, 90% of Americans Do Not Use At All

And the only reason our rate is at 12.2% compared to about 8%-9% in the U.S. is because of our world leading youth usage rates - something which is sure to rise with legalization on the horizon.

The public has now been told by the highest senior federal government official in charge of legalizing recreational high-potency marijuana that usage is far more common among our youth than it actually is.

Is this a subtle way to convince an uninformed public that use is rampant and so overwhelmingly common that legalizing it is no big deal?

It is hard say for sure. But it does make you wonder.

Rates drop precipitously after age 24

What we can see is that the data shows the highest experimentation rates, which can also be just one time usage, occur during the late teen years and early twenties and then drop precipitously after age 24.

The conclusions we can draw from this are clearly that individuals with the highest usage rates are also the same people in the highest risk category for cognitive damage, mental health issues and dependency.  The 15-24 year old youth cohort has the greater number of people most likely to try it. 

Who The Industry Must Target To Survive

Therefore, when the industry wants to gain a new customer they must attract and focus all their messaging toward this group. Trying to pull in a 25 year old, or even a 30 year old is going to be far less productive than targeting a 15 year-old.

Why do marijuana legalization advocates, like Mr. Blair, get off so easy from the media when he misquotes something like this that 40% of young adults are using pot?  One has to wonder. 

Why does the media not even read the study themselves and make the correction?

will the national post acknowledge the error and make a correction? not likely.

Do not hold your breath waiting for the National Post to make a correction and an apology for publishing such a misleading and incorrect statement.  The message has been sent. Mission accomplished.

Even if a recognition of the error is ever made it will only ever be found on the last page near the obituaries and classifieds. Unfortunately, this is all too common among the media today and one of the reasons we started this site to hold people to account when they are careless or intentionally loose with the facts.

But for senior MP Bill Blair to make such a junior mistake is a big disappointment.