(File Photo)

Cannabis use has been on the rise in North America, especially in Canada, long before legalization took place, according to the UN 2019 World Drug Report.

From 2007 to 2013, cannabis use in Canada increased by 40% among residents aged 15 or older at a rate of roughly 9% per year.

“This [rise] is largely a result of a decrease in the perception of risk around cannabis use and of the national debate about legalizing non-medical use of cannabis,” reads the report.

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In 2017, approximately 15% of Canada’s entire population (4.4 million people) above 15 years of age reported using cannabis, with 37% of that total citing medical purposes.

In total, just over a majority of users are aged 15-24, though use among young adults (aged 15-19) has declined since 2013.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that British Columbia had the largest number of cannabis users in 2017, with just over 23% of the population reporting that they had consumed the substance within the last 30 days.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia (18.8%) and Manitoba (15.7%) reported the 2nd and 3rd highest rate of cannabis use, above the national average of 14.8%.

(Image / UN 2019 World Drug Report)

While cannabis use rose dramatically in the middle of this decade, the UN notes that impact of legalization on public health remains to be seen until further information and long term effects are reported.

“The implementation of laws permitting the nonmedical use of cannabis in Canada is nascent and may take several years of monitoring to clarify how the cannabis market has evolved and to identify its dynamics and the impact of legalization on public health and public safety, among other outcome measures,” reads the report.

Cannabis for the use of medical purposes was first permitted in Canada in 1999 before it was fully legalized for recreational use in October, 2018.