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Cannabis Consumers and Strains: Fealty and Fickle

Cannabis enthusiasts are loyal consumers of strains, finding favorites and sticking by their sides for years. Right? Sometimes. But they are fickle, too. While it is true that some consumers rarely vary from a few strains, often for wellness issues (White Widow manages my anxiety, or Harlequin helps me sleep), other consumers experiment wildly with the strain banquets on display every day at dispensaries.

Data from California, the largest legal cannabis market in the world, reveals how strain preference can evolve — dramatically so.

January strain sales saw Blue Dream at No. 1.

In January of this year, when the state kicked-off legal cannabis sales, California consumers crowned Blue Dream as the No. 1 strain, according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. Back then, California consumers spent $1.1 million on Blue Dream, which was more than double the sales of the No. 2 strain that month, Kosher Kush. Rounding out the top five strains that month were Strawberry Banana, Jack Herer and Sour Diesel.

By August, Blue Dream had fallen out of the top slot, replaced by Mendo Breath.

Eight months later, the top five looks much different. In August, Californians spent $1.3 million on Mendo Breath, a strain that didn’t even break the top 15 in January. No. 2 was Super Silver Haze. Super Glue hit No. 3, Blue Dream fell to fourth place, and Fire OG completed the top five. Only one strain, Blue Dream, finds a home in both January and August sales.

The California market was volatile this year, with adult-use sales beginning in January, many dispensaries failing to get licenses (and shutting down), and the year’s staggered parade of new regulations influencing retail trends. Do consumers in other states, where legal adult-use cannabis sales are more stable, display as much variability as Californians?

Not quite. But consumers still bounce around between strains.

The No. 1 strain in Oregon in January, for example, was Sour Diesel, with $269,000 in sales. Durban Poison was close behind, Pineapple Express reached third place, Blue Dream hit fourth, and  Platinum Girl Scout Cookies rounded-out the top five. Fast-forward to August, and Urban Delusion — not even in the top 15 in January — holds first place, with $781,400 in sales, followed by Blue Dream, Purple Hindu Kush, Golden Pineapple and Durban Poison. January’s No. 1, Sour Diesel, was not in the Beaver State’s top 15 for August. Only two strains overlap within the top 5 for Oregon.

Colorado consumers are the most reliable. In January, Blue Dream hit No. 1 with sales of $952,500. August sales also made it No. 1 (although you can see that dollar amounts fell quite a bit during the 8-month period), with $759, 200. January’s No. 2 strain, Gorilla Glue #4, lost a legal battle this year (in terms of its name), so comparing August’s No. 2, Lemon Skunk, to January’s is not comparing apples to apples (or lemons to lemons). Colorado’s number three in January — Durban Poison. Golden Goat and Red Headed Stranger complete the top five. In August, Golden Goat occupied third place, followed by OG Kush and Durban Poison. 

Three strains in Colorado reached the top five in both January and August.

The message for growers and dispensaries — stay on top of strain trends. Cannabis consumers are just like consumers in many industries. They have favorites, but are willing to try the new things. And sometimes, those new things become market leaders.

Doug BrownDoug Brown

Doug Brown

Douglas Brown spent more than two decades in newspaper and magazine newsrooms around the country, covering everything from the White House and Capitol Hill to technology policy to crime in New Mexico. Now, he runs Contact High Communications, a leading cannabis public relations firm based in Boulder, CO. He can be reached at www.contacthighco.com

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