Who’s smoking (legal) marijuana and How They are Smoking it.

By

KATHLEENBURKE

Americans now spend as much on bud as they do on Budweiser, according to new data.

Nearly 70% of dispensary loyalty club members — or customers who regularly purchase cannabis and receive discounts and other incentives by joining a dispensary’s loyalty program — are male and about 36% are between the ages of 21 and 29, according to an analysis of 40,000 customers in Washington by Headset, a company that tracks cannabis transactions. Despite the volume of younger customers, the average age of dispensary loyalty club members is 37.6 and 5% are between the ages of 65 to 95. (Marijuana is legal for medical use in 25 states and Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis.)

Some dispensaries in other recreational states have seen a different gender and age breakdown. TJ’s Organic Provisions in Eugene, Ore., has a male customer base of about 60%, says owner Adam Berk, while Denver-based Southwest Alternative Care has a more equal distribution, with a clientele that is about 55% male and 45% female, says owner Truman Bradley. “Our faster-growing segments are women and seniors,” Bradley says. “The stigma surrounding cannabis is coming off and a lot of people are rediscovering it and being more open to it.”

Male customers tend to spend more annually on marijuana products ($647) than female customers ($634), and buy more frequently, making purchases, on average, every 20 days compared with 22 days for women, according to the Headset data. For comparison, Americans spend about $1,000 a year on coffee and $645 a year on alcohol, says Cy Scott, chief executive of Headset.

Female and older customers are more likely to buy edibles (cannabis-infused food and beverages) while men and customers in their 50s overwhelmingly prefer buying flower — a dried portion of the plant that can be smoked — according to Headset’s Washington data. Male and female customers are equally as likely to purchase vapor pens — they account for 9% of purchases for both groups — and customers between their 40s and 70s are the most likely to buy vapor products, which account for up to 10% of their overall purchases. “On the edible side [in Oregon], it’s a mix of younger clientele,” Berk adds.

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Customers who typically purchase marijuana flower, which must be ground and packed in a smoking device, are more likely to be “legacy” consumers, or people who have been consuming cannabis for years or decades, Scott says, since that is the form it was traditionally sold in in the black market. “It’s like buying coffee beans,” he says, as opposed to ground coffee. “There’s a little bit of effort required to consume it.”

Vapor pens, on the other hand, are a relatively new consumption technology and require less effort to consume, making it more appealing to new customers, Scott says.

Dispensaries in states that have only legalized medical marijuana have also seen diversity in patient demographics. Terra Tech, TRTC, +7.00%  a cannabis-focused agriculture company, operates dispensaries in Oakland, Calif., and Las Vegas. The customer base in both areas has been “as diverse as I could possibly imagine,” says Terra Tech chief executive Derek Peterson. “Disease tends to affect a broad cross section of people.” While different states have varying policies as to which patients qualify for medical marijuana, it is typically used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, nausea and anxiety.

The patient base in Oakland skews older than Las Vegas, Peterson says, where customers tend to be visiting from other states for business or vacation. “They have a higher propensity to spend, it’s a younger crowd,” Peterson says. “The average age in Oakland is 30 or older.”

However, as more states legalize recreational consumption, Peterson says he expects the average age to go down, since medical conditions won’t be required to purchase cannabis. “When there are no barriers to entry, it will shift toward people in their 20s and 30s” who are young professionals, he says. “Brands will develop and cater themselves to that demographic.”

 

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