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Cannabis Consumers: Purchase Drivers, Trends, and Values

Legalized cannabis consumers purchase drivers and values in North America.

Understanding legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp buyer behavior is essential for product development and effective marketing. But this industry is still in its infancy, which means demographic and purchase driver information is limited and sometimes unreliable.

Some studies have shown the fundamental purchase drivers for cannabis products are similar to other types of goods, which is great news for businesses in the industry. There are also promising studies emerging from countries where the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis have been federally legal for several years. 

So, how can those in the U.S. market understand what exactly incentivizes legalized cannabis, CBD, and hemp purchase? What distinguishes one brand from another? And what are contemporary buyers prioritizing and demanding from the companies they purchase from?

In this article, we will explore research that demonstrates exciting trends among cannabis customers. Keep reading to discover opportunities to improve communications with consumers. 

Age Demographics of Cannabis Consumers

By a large margin, the majority of American cannabis consumers fall into the Millennial and Gen Z age group.

A recent survey resulted in the following figures:

  • 22% of consumers were 18 – 29
  • 11% of consumers were 30 – 49
  • 12% of consumers were 50 – 64
  • 3% of consumers were 65 +

Surveys have also found the largest demographic of cannabis users were unmarried millennial men, but not by a wide margin. Young adults of varying genders and backgrounds reported using legalized cannabis for both recreational and medical purposes, meaning that the strongest demographic indicator for cannabis use was age.  

Purchase Drivers for Cannabis Consumers

As the legalized cannabis industry is only just emerging, there is limited and unreliable data about purchase drivers for these products. 

In one study of Canadian consumers—conducted after federal legalization and published this year—participants provided information about different purchase drivers and their importance. 

The primary drivers were as follows:

    • Price: Consistent and affordable pricing structure.
    • Quality: Compliance with safety and production regulations, potency, and craftsmanship.
    • Packaging: Label information that conveys details about a consumer’s needs.
    • Social influences: Recommendations or social and cultural beliefs.
    • Retailer characteristics: Availability at a local dispensary and staff knowledge.

Cannabis Purchase Drivers: Price

Price is one of the leading factors cannabis consumers cited for their participation in the illicit market. Although consumers do correlate the low prices in the illicit market with a marked decrease in quality, a small number of them still prioritized affordability.

The demographic of users who were most concerned about price were experienced and frequent users, suggesting that there is a largely untapped market of frequent cannabis users continuing to purchase illegal cannabis. 

Cannabis Purchase Drivers: Product Quality

While the same study found that there was no shared single definition of a quality cannabis product, there were overlapping elements. These included:

  • Compliance with regulations
  • Accurate labeling for potency, effectiveness, and ingredients
  • Cultivation with high production standards
  • Safety of the product

Cannabis Purchase Drivers: Packaging

Surveyed cannabis consumers were also concerned with packaging and labels on the products they chose to purchase. While many felt that the packaging of federally legal cannabis was excessive and not environmentally friendly, they noted the importance of accurate and robust label information.

Some of the key pieces of information they preferred to read on a label included:

  • Warning information
  • Usage instructions
  • Full ingredients
  • Source information
  • Potency
  • Strain information

Overall, there was disagreement about the amount of packaging that should be used, but the survey group was unanimously appreciative of the comprehensive label information.

Cannabis Purchase Drivers: Others

Surveyed cannabis users have reported that they use cannabis as a solution for a variety of wellness-related concerns. An estimated 70% of cannabis consumers use the products to support their sleep health, and 59% consume cannabis to reduce stress and nerves.

The research on whether or not cannabis can support or relieve specific medical conditions or ailments is limited. As such, it is illegal to make medical claims in cannabis product messaging. 

However, regardless of whether or not cannabis has been proven to support these functions, the research suggests that consumers believe it can. As a result, a significant factor driving cannabis purchases involves a consumer’s belief that a product will be effective and include the correct ingredients for solving their problem. 

Cannabis Consumer Priorities and Values

Consumer values, especially among the Millennial and Gen Z demographic, have evolved significantly over the past few years. 

Two of the main shifts in consumer values include:

    • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Consumers care more about inclusivity and they are willing to purchase from companies that demonstrate the same value. An estimated two out of three Americans make purchases based on social values.
    • Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): Investors, workers, governments, and consumers are all increasing pressure on companies to make and adhere to their ESG commitments. Of those who cite sustainability as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, 70% are willing to pay a significant premium for sustainable products.

Build Trust with Cannabis Consumers in Qredible®

In the digital marketplace, consumers demand more transparency, trustworthiness, and commitment than ever before. If your company is laser-focused on providing that, the last thing you need is competition with deceptive marketing tactics. Are you willing to stand behind your brand commitments? 

False, accidentally fraudulent, or misleading claims diminish the hard work of responsible businesses and disincentivize them from putting forth the effort to engage in safe commerce. 

In Qredible®, companies are rewarded for transparency. They have access to premium resources that build a solid foundation of trust with their audience.

Trust, transparency, and support to protect and grow your business: that’s what you’ll find in Qredible. Want to learn more? Get started today.

Doug Roberts

Doug Roberts

Doug Roberts is the Chief Product & Customer Success Officer at Qredible.


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