U.S. legal and illicit cannabis consumer spending reached an estimated US$97 billion in 2021, according to a new report by New Frontier Data.
On Wednesday, the Washington, D.C.-based data and analytics firm teamed with cannabis wellness company Jointly to release the report Cannabis Consumers in America: Dynamics Shaping Normalization in 2022.
New Frontier Data has surveyed more than 20,000 consumers since 2018, analyzing cannabis consumer behaviour to produce the report, which estimated that cannabis sales exceeded spirits (US$86 billion) last year, while matching spending on beer.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of all survey respondents reported using cannabis daily, with two-thirds consuming more than once per week as product selection expands with more convenient and discreet consumption methods.
“Cannabis is no longer a one-size-fits-all industry,” Gary Allen, CEO of New Frontier Data, said in a statement. “It’s now a commercial imperative for brands, retailers and operators to do the homework required to understand their ideal customer, why they consume and what products they prefer.”
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Other major findings of the report include that flower accounts for half of all legal sales nationally, but the majority of consumers are now using non-flower products as additional offerings reach the market.
The report states the primary reasons for consumption include relaxation, pain management, improving sleep outcomes, treating medical conditions, and improving overall wellness.
Highlighting a generational shift in cannabis acceptance, the report found that more than half of adults aged 18-34 consume at least once daily, significantly more than among older age groups.
Positive outcomes from medical cannabis use are driving increased acceptance, as 57 per cent of medical cannabis patients report their conditions improved significantly, with 93 per cent reporting at least some improvement.
“Understanding what drives and defines optimal individual consumer experiences is increasingly important,” said Eric Gutshall, Jointly co-founder and chief data officer. “As we continue to capture more experiential feedback, our partnership with New Frontier Data will provide the industry with a more holistic view into consumer behaviour and preferences.”
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More than half of the U.S. population currently lives in states where cannabis is legal in some form. With an additional 18 states planning to legalize either medical or adult-use programs during the next decade, the report estimates that 96 per cent of Americans could be living in legal cannabis markets by 2030, significantly expanding the legal industry and reducing stigma around consumption.
However, “while legalization may improve the quality and availability of cannabis products, the pervasive and deeply entrenched illegal market is not a barrier for consumers in unregulated markets, and consumer behaviour is quickly normalizing across all markets,” the report stated.