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The ‘typical’ cannabis consumer? There isn’t one, finds US report

Consumers span a broad spectrum of demographics, with 83% using cannabis to help them unwind

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The cannabis consumer demographic is diverse in the US, a new report has found.

Cannabis consumers in the US span a broad spectrum of demographics, but almost all are looking for a way to switch off, finds a new report. 

A new report examining the demographics of cannabis users in the US dispels some of the long-existing myths and stereotypes associated with the ‘typical’ cannabis consumers. 

In February 2023, researchers at New Frontier Data surveyed over 5,500 people about their cannabis consumption. 

The results show that while cannabis consumers span a diverse range of backgrounds, economic brackets and political standings, many are working professionals and almost all are looking for something to help them unwind.

According to the report, 42% of adults said they have used cannabis and will likely use it again, with 37% describing themselves as ‘current consumers’.

Of these, 37% said they had increased their consumption in the last year, with over a third using cannabis every couple of days. Despite over half living in a state where adult-use cannabis was legal, the authors say that frequency of use did not vary significantly by market type. 

The demographic was split almost equally between men (54%) and women (46%), but the majority identified as white (63%) followed by Hispanic/Latinex (14%) and Black (14%).

Only 10% of those surveyed were ages 18- 24, with those aged 25-44 making up just under half (47%). Some18% were aged 45-54, 15% were 55-64 and 10% were over 65. 

The majority of consumers were professionals, with most earning a salary between $25-75k and 38% having a bachelor’s degree or higher. Thirty eight percent also had children under the age of 18. 

When asked about political alignment, 36% described themselves as ‘liberal’ and 26% ‘conservative’. 

Reasons for consuming cannabis 

The lines between medicinal and recreational use were blurred. 

Most said they consumed cannabis in order to achieve a ‘specific objective’, with 83% saying they use it to unwind, such as helping with relaxation, anxiety and sleep.

While most said they used ‘recreationally’, over half said their consumption was both medicinal and recreational, with chronic pain the most common indication and anxiety, depression and insomnia close behind. 

Three quarters of self-identified ‘medical consumers’ were said to be treating a specific medical condition diagnosed by a doctor. Almost all (94%) said their condition had improved since consuming cannabis. 

A significant proportion of non-consumers also said they would be open to trying cannabis if they became ill with a condition which may be helped by it.

How do people consume cannabis?

Joints were the most common form of consumption method, followed by edibles.

Even in states where adult-use cannabis was legal, there was limited access to a broad range of products. Fewer than half of consumers had access to products other than flowers, pre-rolls, and edibles. 

THC potency and effect of the product were the attributes that consumers found most relevant when deciding which product to choose.

Of flower consumers, 77% said strain was important and 47% placed value on minor cannabinoid and terpene profiles. 

Where are people sourcing their cannabis from?

While just under half (43%) are buying their cannabis from a brick-and-mortar dispensary, many are still sourcing it through friends and family members, with 15% having it delivered to them and 10% getting it from a dealer. 

Only 2% of respondents said they grow their own cannabis at home. 

Cannabis consumers need more options

While the report indicates a strong position and potential growth for the cannabis industry, the authors of the report say producers and regulators do more to meet the needs of consumers.

“The cannabis consumer demographic is diverse, with users spread across age groups, genders, economic brackets, and political affiliations,” the report states. 

“A majority of cannabis consumers use the product for both medical and recreational purposes. This underscores the need for product development that focuses on delivering specific effects, such as boosting energy or relieving pain, and understanding that one consumer may seek several distinct effects in different contexts.”

The authors add: “Access to forms of cannabis other than flower and edibles remains limited for many consumers, even in adult-use states. As such, regulators should work to ensure that a wider variety of cannabis products are made available to consumers, and existing operators who have focused primarily on flower and edibles should expand their product offerings to reach new consumers, as well as providing existing consumers with additional product options.”

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Home » News » The ‘typical’ cannabis consumer? There isn’t one, finds US report

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister title and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email sarah@prohibitionpartners.com / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag

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