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Understanding Cannabis (Marijuana) Use

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare ( recently released a report on trends in cannabis use from 2013 to 2022. This detailed report provides an interesting and informative window on cannabis use here in Australia. To access the full report use this link.

As a workplace drug and alcohol testing provider, we are especially interested in understanding cannabis (marijuana) use. We know many of our customers are too, so we provide a summary of those key findings here.


1. Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in Australia.

  • 11% of Australians aged 14 and over (about 2.5 million people) used cannabis in the previous 12 months in 2022–2023 (AIHW 2024).

  • This level of usage was stable from 2019.

2. The majority of recent cannabis users usually obtained it from a friend (61%).

  • 21% sourced it from a dealer.

3. 90% of users usually used it in a private home.

4. Regarding how cannabis is used, it was commonly smoked on its own in a joint or from a bong, or with tobacco in a joint (AIHW 2024).


5. Males were more likely than females to have recently used cannabis However, of note, the gender gap in usage is narrowing, with more females reporting cannabis use over time. Interestingly, among younger users (14-19 years of age), females accounted for a higher proportion of recent users than males.

6. The mean age of people who had recently used cannabis is now 36 years. This has increased from 29 years in 2001 (AIHW 2024).

7. Consumption of cannabis is higher in regional areas than in capital cities.

8. From a socioeconomic perspective, people living in the most advantaged socioeconomic areas were most likely to have used cannabis recently in 2022–2023.

9. Metal health conditions such as anxiety and depression, were more likely to be experienced by cannabis users than non users. Further, cannabis users were more likely to report high to very high levels of psychological stress.

Frequency of use

10. In 2022–2023, of those who had recently used cannabis:

  • 60% did so about once a month or less often.

  • 18% did so every day, up from 14% in 2019.

  • Daily use was more likely to be reported by:

o Males

o People in their 50s and over

o People living in outer regional areas.

Medicinal cannabis use

Data from the 2022–2023 National Drug strategy Household Survey indicate that 3.0% of people aged 14 and over had used cannabis for medical reasons in the previous 12 months.

Among those who exclusively used cannabis for medical purposes, 7 in 10 (70%) did so without a prescription. Access via medical pathways, however, is becoming more common with 22% of people who used cannabis for medical purposes always had it prescribed by a doctor (AIHW 2024).

TGA data indicate a substantial rise in the number of medical cannabis approvals since 2016, with 963,000 approvals via the Authorised Provider pathway and 458,000 via the Special Access Scheme -B pathway from July 2016–December 2023.


This data shows that cannabis use is common in Australia and therefore it is not surprising that it may find its way into the workplace. In addition, cannabis use is complex and complicated, especially given the shifting dynamics of illicit and medicinal cannabis.

Cannabis represents a real safety risk for our workplaces. This is because workers affected by cannabis may be unsafe due to an altered state of consciousness. Impaired concentration, balance, co-ordination, sleepiness or distortions of space and time, increase the risk of an accident, error, or inappropriate action. Hallucinations, anxiety, and paranoia may also occur at higher doses or long-term use.

If you think cannabis might be compromising safety at your workplace, we can help.

  • Our engaging education material has been developed by experts with both workers and managers in mind. It is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the health and safety implications of cannabis use for the individual and for the team as a whole.

  • We also have many years experience with workplace drug testing. So if you would like to begin drug and alcohol testing in your workplace or to optimise an exisiting program, we can help ensure it is done right.

Regarding medicinal cannabis, DASA has considerable expertise in this area and can help you navigate the complexities through:

  • Ensuring your Drug and Alcohol Policy adequately addresses cannabis.

  • Providing training for workers and managers, including clarifying what constitutes legal and illegal cannabis use.

  • Interpreting drug test and laboratory test reports, on a case by case basis.

Call us today on 1300 230 231 or email us at to see how DASA can help you manage the risks of cannabis use in your workplace.


DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.



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