Tiny number of users smoking most of nation’s weed

ONE SIXTH of cannabis users are responsible for between 81 and 85 per cent of Australia's total marijuana consumption, new research has revealed.

The UQ study, published yesterday in the journal Addiction, found that an estimated 447 million joints were consumed in Australia in 2016, with "the number of bongs and cones (converted) to joints using a ratio of 3 to 1".

Some 84.5 per cent of those were consumed by daily users, who account for roughly one sixth of the country's cannabis-using population.

"Sixteen per cent of cannabis users consumed the drug daily and this group accounted for more than 80 per cent of all cannabis consumed in the country," lead author Dr Gary 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."

 

Over 10 years, the prevalence of cannabis use increased from 8.9 per cent to 10.5 per cent.

"This small increase in cannabis use is likely due to a more liberal attitude towards cannabis use compared to ten years ago," Dr Chan said.

With Canberra set to approve relaxed cannabis laws at the end of this month and Queensland issuing permits for cannabis growing companies, the widespread attitude is leaning towards cannabis legalisation.

However, Dr Chang said the recent findings must be considered in establishing future cannabis policies.

"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," he said.

Dr Chang's study, "Estimation of the proportion of population cannabis consumption in Australia that is accounted for by daily users using Monte Carlo Simulation", used data from four national substance use surveys to estimate proportions of cannabis use in the Australian population.