Cannabis users are one of the most stereotyped consumer demographics in the country. The archetype is familiar: the typical young, male, couch-locked stoner. With legalization spreading, though, is this actually typical of cannabis buyers today? Obviously hardcore enthusiasts are still a large and appealing set of consumers, and in the early days of any state's legal, adult-use program this will be the largest base. However, the 2015 Marijuana Business Daily Factbook indicated that 30% of all legal cannabis consumers had never purchased on the black market. Additionally we're seeing across the country many people who are purchasing cannabis - first time buyers or not - do not fit the stereotype. Cannabis has been normalizing for a long time, and the modern face of cannabis is incredibly multifaceted.
First and foremost the legal cannabis market has expanded across the country because of the efficacy of medical cannabis. The face of this market is as counter to the stereotype as one can get. For instance, the most common medical cannabis patient in the state of Illinois is a 50 year-old female with fibromyalgia or cancer according to a report issued by the state. Across the country patients are seeing relief from epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, or multiple sclerosis among many other debilitating conditions. As we see study after study examining how medical cannabis can better the lives of children and veterans it becomes incredibly hard to pigeonhole these patients into the old stoner archetype.
While people under 34 have the highest approval ratings for cannabis legalization older generations are becoming a growing consumer segment in both the medical and adult-use spaces. Medical cannabis dispensaries are reporting increasing numbers of seniors using cannabis as treatment over prescription dugs, and according to a recent Pew poll Baby Boomers approve of the full legalization of cannabis at a rate almost equal to Generation X. The growth of this consumer demographic further muddies what a “typical cannabis buyer” might look like.
Women are an increasing demographic in cannabis as well which is evidenced by a recent CBS News poll indicating that a majority of women now approve of full adult-use legalization. Indeed, last year musician and medical cannabis activist Melissa Etheridge noted, “I think the cannabis revolution is being led by middle-aged women.”
Every day of legal cannabis has seen an expansion of the base of potential consumers. It stands to reason that since there is such a wide array of people purchasing legal cannabis in the U.S. these days that companies will begin to cater to these groups. As the industry develops, branding will become more sophisticated and more targeted, branching out from the simple product-based marketing that dominates today.
There is nothing stereotypical about cannabis buyers in 2016. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and professions, are of varied ages, and consume different amounts in different ways for different reasons. They are students, yes, but also teachers, nurses, and business professionals. They are younger adults, but they are also mothers and grandfathers. Cannabis is a market that is beginning to cross all demographic boundaries and soon enough the “typical cannabis consumer” will be anyone, and everyone.