What Do We “Know” About Cannabis Users (Really)?

4 “Facts” About Cannabis Consumers in 2019

Close your eyes and imagine the “average” cannabis consumer. What do you see?

Is it the bong-wielding stoner-bro caricature? The arthritic Boomer seeking natural relief? A working mom wanting to sleep through the night?

Having spent 5+ years in marketing legal cannabis, we at COHNNABIS can say with some authority there is no “average” consumer. We just don’t have a detailed, statistically-supported understanding of customer segments in cannabis yet, especially compared to other consumer industries with much longer histories.

Even the little we do know from point-of-sale data and ongoing consumer research is just the tip of the iceberg. In this smart, statistically based opinion piece in Forbes titled “Do We Have Enough Data to Build Accurate Cannabis Consumer Personas?,” Andre Bourque ultimately concludes that we do not.

So what do we know about cannabis consumers? What do data and research and anecdotal accounts tell us about users in 2019? Is there anything we can say for certain about those who consume cannabis?

The team at COHNNABIS compiled a list of insights and assumptions we use daily in thinking through brand marketing strategies for our clients.

1. The Conversation is Too Nuanced For Stereotypes

One thing’s for certain: Many, many more people use cannabis than the stereotypical stoner-bro.

Late last year, New Frontier Data & MJ Freeway published the 2018-2019 Cannabis Consumer Report, a national survey of more than 3,100 cannabis users. Within this report, the authors published 9 Cannabis Consumer Archetypes, defined by frequency, consumption type, spending, products, and reasons for use.

These personas range from the somewhat specific “Silver Dabbler”—older males who use a few times a month to relax—to the broader catch-all “Modern Lifestyler”—young and affluent consumers that use for a variety of reasons. In other words, even this noble attempt to find common archetypes still falls short of being overly descriptive. It’s just too hard to put cannabis consumers in a box.

From our point of view and first-hand experience at COHNNABIS, this all checks out. We work with clients whose primary customers are young adventurers, others who narrowly target Baby Boomers, others who are focused almost exclusively on women, and others who mostly market to athletes. Like any other industry, there is no one single type of consumer—even nine is too few—and anyone who tells you differently is overly-simplifying a complex market.

2. The Emerging Female Demographic is Real, but Men Still Probably Consume More

Virtually every study about cannabis consumption habits shows more and more women are enjoying cannabis. In its annual State of Cannabis study, delivery service Eaze reports that female consumers almost doubled from the previous year—with women now up to 38% of cannabis consumers. One survey from the Cannabis Consumers Coalition (CCC) even suggested that 59% of all consumers were female, a finding that goes against the conventional gender narrative.

These stats seem to track with the explosion of beautiful, feminine-forward cannabis brands like Van der Pop, Beboe, and AnnaBis that are clearly aiming toward winning the female demographic and dominating on Instagram. Anecdotally, we can share that almost all of our clients at COHNNABIS are aggressively pursuing suburban women in 2019.

Of course, despite the massive potential with women, it’s still generally accepted that men currently consume more than women. Using customer loyalty programs as a measuring stick, Headset Cannabis Intelligence reported a 2:1 disparity between men and women. A separate study by Canadian marketplace Lift & Co. reflected a similar gap between male/female recreational usage. And consumer research company Statistia just released a three-month study that mirrored this 2:1 ratio.

3. Baby Boomers Represent a Major Opportunity

Similar to the emerging female demographic, Baby Boomers also seem to be the apple of cannabis marketers’ eye at the moment—and for good reason.

According to the aforementioned Eaze report, the Baby Boomer customer segment grew by 25% over the past year, one of the fastest growing audiences in cannabis. Another report showed 9% of adults aged 50-64 used cannabis in the last year, which was up 50% from a decade before. Between increasing consumption and its incredible spending power, it makes sense why leading market research and data analytics company BDS Analytics identified “The Aging Consumer” as one of its Top 10 Trends in Cannabis for 2019.

4. Consumer Motivations Are Diverse

It doesn’t take long to find a study or survey that theorizes on consumer motivations. Here is a random smattering of a few publicly available stats for reference.

  • The top three reasons why consumers use cannabis are for relaxation (66%), stress relief (59%) and to reduce anxiety (53%). (New Frontier Data)
  • 71% of cannabis consumers say they engage with the plant for social and or recreational purposes. (BDS Analytics)
    40% of female consumers use cannabis to manage menstruation, menopause or mental-health concern. (Cannabis Consumer Coalition)
  • 80% of all consumers use cannabis directly before or after exercise. (University of Colorado at Boulder)

The point we’re making is that motivations seem to be all over the place depending on the study, audience, and market—and this opaque view is most likely the result of us not really knowing our customer archetypes well enough yet.

With more data and a better understanding of our audiences, consumer motivations should become clearer, but for now, we think it’s too complex and nuanced to use blanket statements for why customers consume cannabis. More importantly, this lack of data further underscores why all types of cannabis companies would be wise to work with people and companies who have innate experience and understanding of the market.

Fortunately, our team at COHNNABIS has been doing for 5+ years, and we employ some of the smartest, most connected people in cannabis. If you’re looking for a marketing partner, give us out shout—because newbies can’t just come in and get up to speed by reading a couple of pieces of research.