Many Canadians turned to weed as coronavirus arrived. Here’s how to tell if that’s a problem

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For better or worse, many Canadians appear to be turning to weed to help them cope with the stress and isolation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In mid-March, as coronavirus-related shutdowns took hold, government-owned cannabis retailers in Ontario and Quebec reported sharply increased sales.

But were those sales displaced from brick-and-mortar stores, as customers suddenly sought to have cannabis shipped to them instead of buying it in person?

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Sales figures recently released for March by Statistics Canada provided an answer: total sales increased noticeably as the pandemic made itself felt.

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Did panicky customers overstock? It doesn’t look that way. While official sales figures for April aren’t out yet, licenced producers say sales fell to normal levels, but not below.

Why might so many turn to cannabis as a coping strategy in a crisis?

“One motive could be to manage negative emotions,” says Calgary-based addiction psychologist Jonathan Stea. “Cannabis can be good for that, because it’s a mind-altering substance.

“It can immediately take away anxiety, or immediately take away boredom or sadness in the short term.

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