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National Retail Sales of Alcohol and Cannabis During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Canada

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

There is concern that the societal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will be associated with increased substance use.1 Data to date have primarily been self-reported changes, but objective sales data may inform this question. Here, we examined national retail sales of alcohol and cannabis prior to and during the pandemic in Canada.

Where applicable, the report for this economic evaluation is consistent with the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) reporting guideline. The Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board determined that ethical review board approval and informed consent were not needed because the data were publicly available sales metrics. The data were seasonally adjusted national monthly retail sales (ie, North American Industry Classification System codes 4453, for beer, wine, and liquor stores, and 453993, for cannabis stores) from November 2018 to June 2021 in Canadian dollars.2 The period was selected to provide a sizable prepandemic window and because of the timing of cannabis legalization (ie, mid-October 2018). Principal analyses were contrasts between intrapandemic sales and a counterfactual intrapandemic linear trend based on prepandemic sales. A subanalysis quantified stockpiling, operationalized as the proportionate change in March 2020, when states of emergency were declared, compared with the counterfactual estimate. Because the data were population level, null hypothesis significance testing was a secondary priority, but overall differences and intrapandemic trends in poststockpiling data were examined statistically using analysis of variance (ANOVA) and segmented regression, respectively. Significance tests used P < .05 and were 2-sided, and analyses were conducted from May to August 2021 using Excel version 2019 (Microsoft), SPSS statistical software version 26.0 (IBM), and R statistical software version 4.1.1 (R Project for Statistical Computing).

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Accepted for Publication: August 31, 2021.

Published: November 4, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.33076

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 MacKillop J et al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: James MacKillop, PhD, Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton/McMaster University, 100 W Fifth St, Hamilton, ON L8N 3K7, Canada (jmackill@mcmaster.ca).

Author Contributions: Dr MacKillop and Ms Cooper had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: MacKillop.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: MacKillop, Cooper.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: MacKillop, Costello.

Statistical analysis: All authors.

Administrative, technical, or material support: MacKillop.

Supervision: MacKillop.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr MacKillop reported serving as principal and senior scientist at Beam Diagnostics and receiving consulting fees from Clairvoyant Therapeutics outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by the Peter Boris Chair in Addictions Research and Homewood Research Institute, an independent charitable organization funded through a variety of sources, including Homewood Health, community stakeholders, corporations, and private foundations.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: Kyla Belisario, MA (Peter Boris Centre for Addictions Research, St Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton/McMaster University), provided insights on an earlier data set and was not compensated for this work.

Clay  JM , Parker  MO .  Alcohol use and misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic: a potential public health crisis?   Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(5):e259. doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30088-8 PubMedGoogle Scholar
Statistics Canada. Retail trade sales by industry (x1,000). Accessed August 23, 2021. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=2010000802
Imtiaz  S , Wells  S , Rehm  J ,  et al.  Cannabis use during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada: a repeated cross-sectional study.   J Addict Med. Published online December 14, 2020. doi:10.1097/ADM.0000000000000798PubMedGoogle Scholar
Minhas  M , Belisario  K , González-Roz  A , Halladay  J , Murphy  JG , MacKillop  J .  COVID-19 impacts on drinking and mental health in emerging adults: longitudinal changes and moderation by economic disruption and sex.   Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2021;45(7):1448-1457. doi:10.1111/acer.14624 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Ontario Cannabis Store. A year in review: April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021. Accessed June 12, 2021. https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/2636/1928/files/OCS-InsightsReport_____2020-21.pdf?v=1625075546
AMA CME Accreditation Information

Credit Designation Statement: The American Medical Association designates this Journal-based CME activity activity for a maximum of 1.00  AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Successful completion of this CME activity, which includes participation in the evaluation component, enables the participant to earn up to:

  • 1.00 Medical Knowledge MOC points in the American Board of Internal Medicine's (ABIM) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;;
  • 1.00 Self-Assessment points in the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery’s (ABOHNS) Continuing Certification program;
  • 1.00 MOC points in the American Board of Pediatrics’ (ABP) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program;
  • 1.00 Lifelong Learning points in the American Board of Pathology’s (ABPath) Continuing Certification program; and
  • 1.00 CME points in the American Board of Surgery’s (ABS) Continuing Certification program

It is the CME activity provider's responsibility to submit participant completion information to ACCME for the purpose of granting MOC credit.

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