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New Consumer Insights Data Offers Fresh Profiles of Weed Lovers

We write quite a bit about what people are buying at dispensaries, using extraordinarily robust point-of-sale data from cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. What were the most popular strains in Oregon last month, or a year ago from today? What’s the growth trajectory for vape pens filled with distillate in Colorado during the second quarter? Chocolates that are high in CBD — what is their market share among all chocolate products in California during 2018, and how has it evolved? We’ve got answers to all of these questions, and plenty more.

But now we also will write about who is buying cannabis products. We will cover why they purchase vape pens. We will explore how consumers in different states consume their cannabis, and at what times of the day, among many other things. Insights like these have long been elusive within the cannabis industry, and they are vital for industry stakeholders trying to figure out what to manufacture, for example, or how to strategically market their products. BDS Analytics now makes a portion of its ongoing consumer research available to subscribers, and we plan to mine it.

Over time, we will examine a wide range of consumer behavior. Today, we begin with a straightforward overview of some key insights.

First off, let’s establish some terms. BDS Analytics Consumer Insights division refers to Consumers as people who have consumed cannabis or cannabis products within the past six months. Acceptors are people who would consider consuming cannabis or cannabis products in the future. And Rejecters would not consider consuming cannabis or cannabis products. 

People in legal adult-use states support the most cannabis Consumers.

In states with legal adult-use sales of marijuana during the first quarter of 2018, 32 percent of the legal-to-consume population qualifies as Consumers, 31 percent as Acceptors and 37 percent as Rejecters. The numbers shift in medical-only states, where 17 percent are Consumers, 43 percent are Acceptors and 40 percent Rejecters. In states with no legal access to cannabis — not even CBD products — 14 percent are Consumers, 39 percent Acceptors and 47 percent Rejecters.

Among Consumers, the No. 1 reason for using cannabis is for recreational and social purposes.

When we scrutinize the same terms within different legal adult-use states during the first quarter, we find attitudes towards cannabis are not uniform. Perhaps surprisingly, California supports the lowest percentage of Consumers — 30 percent. Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon support the highest rate of Consumers, both at 36 percent.

That stereotype of the typical cannabis Consumer being a 20-something bro? Let it go. The average age for cannabis Consumers ranges between 39 (in California) to 42 (in Colorado, Oregon and Washington). But for now, at least, you can cling to the bro bit — in all four states, 60 percent or more of the Consumers are male, with Washington supporting the biggest disparity, at 66 percent male to 34 percent female.

For what reasons do Consumers in different states use cannabis? Good question. 

What are some primary reasons among California Consumers for using cannabis? For one, relieving pain.

In Colorado and California, the No. 1 reasons for using cannabis are to relieve pain (17 percent of CO Consumers refer to pain relief as a reason, and 13 percent of Californians). In Oregon, managing anxiety and relaxing/being mellow are tied for being top reasons for consuming (16 percent of Consumers refer to these reasons for using marijuana). Consumers in Washington, like their neighbors in Oregon, also champion relaxing/being mellow as their No. 1 reason for using cannabis.

Who consumes cannabis? The question was complex enough prior to the wave of adult-use legalization triumphs in different states. But now more than ever it’s your soccer-dad neighbor. It’s your grandmother. It’s your boss, the owner of the neighborhood flower shop, the plumber. We look forward to exploring this wild diversity of cannabis enthusiasts.

Doug 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

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