Research Summary: Cannabis Policy Performance Metrics

PDF (108 Kb)

Of the 45 metrics identified, Canada currently collects data to calculate about seven, some partial information on a further 17, and little to no data on the remaining 21 metrics.

Background

Cannabis and its byproducts are the most widely used illegal narcotic substances in the world; according to rough estimates, worldwide there were 125 million users and suppliers of cannabis products in 2011 (Caulkins et al, 2012).  Canada has one of the highest prevalence rates of cannabis use in the world; over forty per cent of Canadians have used cannabis as a drug during their lifetimes, and between 10.2% (Health Canada, 2012) and 12.2% per cent have used it in the year preceding the survey, 2011 (Rotermann and Langlois, 2015).

Canada is currently proceeding to legalize the non-medical use of cannabis. In light of the possible shift in cannabis policy regime, it is essential to discuss the baseline metrics that need to be measured before and after any shift in policy in order to understand whether the policy has had the intended impact on the Canadian population.

Method

A thorough literature review and examination of the performance metrics that can be applied to cannabis regimes was conducted.  The literature that was considered for examination consisted of academic published material, documents originating from governments and law enforcement agencies in Canada and internationally, and grey literature such as newspaper articles, online magazines, and non-academic discussion pieces in Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) countries. An attempt was made to discuss the availability and quality of data that was available in Canada to assess each of the performance metrics. Where data or proxy measures were not available for a particular metric, the authors offered a discussion of the importance to collect the data directly, as well as possible methods to do so.

Findings

The cannabis performance metrics may be classified into four categories: 1) public safety; 2) public health; 3) economics; and 4) children and youth.

Some of the metrics discussed in the paper are more precise, or operationalized, than others. Some can be implemented and measured through surveys, interviews, police records, or various databases. Other metrics are more general in their nature and should be regarded by policy makers as policy-research issues to consider exploring through directed projects. Finally, there are several metrics identified in the paper that are not currently being measured at all, and yet are important points of discussion. Of the approximately 45 types of metrics identified in this paper, Canada currently collects data to calculate about seven, some partial information on a further 17, and little to no data on the remaining 21 metrics. Table 1 below provides an overview of the metrics discussed in the paper. The full table is found in appendix at the end of the paper; it can be used as a reference guide to all the metrics discussed throughout the paper, and how they could be measured.

A number of governments and organizations could share the burden of collecting the data required to calculate the metrics discussed in this paper. Regardless who chooses to collect what information, collaboration should be fostered on the complex issue of measuring the performance of the cannabis policy regime.

Table 1: Summary of Cannabis Performance Metrics

Class of Metric

Measured in Canada?

Public safety

Usage Trends

Partially

Method of Consumption

No

Police-Reported Incidents and Charges (Adult)

Partially

Outcomes of Police-reported Offences (Adult)

Yes

Illegal Production and Cultivation

Partially

Police Calls for Service

No

Potency

Partially

Crime around Dispensaries

No (some studies in U.S.)

Crop Eradication

No (some studies in U.S.)

Grow-ops as Fire Hazard

No

Organized Crime

No

Probation Infractions and Parole Violations

No

Diversion to Other Jurisdictions

No (some studies in U.S.)

Transfer Using Parcel Services

No (Some studies in U.S.)

Exportation across Borders

No (Some studies in U.S.)

Extraction Explosions and Injuries

No (Some studies in U.S.)

Traffic Accidents and DUID

Yes

Testing Information and Law Enforcement Training

Yes

Public Health

Medical Marijuana Industry

Partially

Use of Other Licit and Illicit Drugs

No (some studies in U.S.)

Overdose

No

Emergency Room Visits and Hospital Treatment Admissions

Yes

Issues of Dependency and Abuse of Cannabis

Yes

Treatment Admissions

Partially

Respiratory Effects Smoking Cannabis

Partially

Cancer

Partially

Cardiovascular Health

Partially

Pregnancy and Reproductive Health

Partially

Mental Health

Partially

Athletic Performance

Partially

Healthcare Costs

Partially

Economics

Value of Electricity Used by Grow-Ops

Partially

Market Origin

Very limited

Sharing and Sale by  Users

No

Pricing

Partially

Economic Impact of Legalization

No (some studies in U.S.)

Real Estate Market

No (some studies in U.S.)

Impact on Productivity

No (some studies in U.S.)

Environmental Impact

Very limited

Grow-op Technology

No (some studies in U.S.)

Juveniles and Youth

Usage trends among Youth

Partially

Police-Reported Incidents and Charges (Youth)

Yes

Youth Court

Yes

School Performance

No (some studies in U.S.)

Homeless Youth

Partially

Collection of data to develop metrics is expensive and would require both initial and continuous funding. Funds generated from any changes in cannabis policy regimes, for example from sales taxes in scenarios where the non-medical use of cannabis might be legalized, could be continuously reinvested not only into harm reduction and public education, but also into the continuous collection of data on metrics of the types identified in this paper. Considering how little data currently is collected regarding many of these suggested metrics, there is a great opportunity to make high quality research and evaluation an important part of the cannabis policy in the future.

Sources

Caulkins, J. P., Hawken, A., Kilmer, B., and Kleiman, M. A. R. (2012). Marijuana Legalization. What Everyone needs to Know. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Health Canada. (2012). Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey. Summary of Results for 2012. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2012/summary-sommaire-eng.php on October 5, 2015.

Maslov, A., Lawrence, A., and Ferguson, M. (2016).  Cannabis Performance Metrics for Policy Consideration: What Do We Need to Measure? Public Safety Canada: Ottawa.

Rotermann, M. and Langlois, K. (2015). “Prevalence and Correlates of Marijuana Use in Canada, 2012,” Health Reports, 26, 4: 10-15. Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 82-003-X. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2015004/article/14158-eng.pdf on September 22, 2015.

For more information, or to get a copy of the full research report, or to be placed on our distribution list, please contact:

Research Division
Public Safety Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8
PS.CSCCBResearch-RechercheSSCRC.SP@canada.ca

Research Summaries are produced for the Community Safety and Countering Crime Branch, Public Safety Canada. The summary herein reflects interpretations of the report authors’ findings and do not necessarily reflect those of Public Safety Canada.

Date modified: