Here's How Cannabis Consumption is Changing

Following the advent of legal cannabis, the demographics of cannabis consumers are changing. Find out how in this article.

Given the brute momentum of global cannabis legalization in recent years, it can be easy to forget just how much things have changed when it comes to the perception of cannabis.

Forty-nine years ago, in 1971, then U.S. President Richard Nixon changed history when he declared drug abuse "public enemy number one" and enacted the War on Drugs. From that point forward, cannabis was pushed into the shadows, and anyone caught even possessing the plant risked facing jail-time.

Furthermore, despite Nixon being President of the United States, he successfully exported his harsh stance on drugs throughout the globe, prompting many other nations to follow suit.

For the most part, despite many labeling, the War on Drugs a failure, Nixon's legacy lives on. Only Uruguay and Canada have federally legalized cannabis, and in virtually every other country, cannabis remains illegal.

Though it's not all doom and gloom, as things are changing rapidly. Every few months, a new country or state will either decriminalize, medicinally legalize, or recreationally legalize cannabis, and it seems the pace is accelerating.

In order to show you some of these major changes, we've put together some infographics to help explain the changing tides of the global cannabis industry.

1. More Women Consume Cannabis

Consuming cannabis has historically been a largely male activity, with a report from 2016 finding that men comprised 68.9 percent of marijuana customers. This is a worldview that is also characterized by popular culture, with most stoner films featuring male protagonists; The Dude, Cheech and Chong, Saul Silver, Harold and Kumar, and many more have reflected the predominantly male nature of the cannabis industry.

Furthermore, as cannabis has been largely illegal, consumption of the plant has been relegated to those who wish to overstep the lines of legality in order to consume it. When it comes to crime, again, men are the biggest contributors. Combine this with the fact that men are bigger consumers of all illicit substances than women, and you've got the perfect storm for a majority-male cannabis community.

Though the times, they are a-changin'.

As cannabis becomes increasingly legal and socially acceptable, we're seeing the texture of this historically male-dominated area radically change; that is to say, more women are getting into weed.

According to a report by Eaze, the number of women purchasing cannabis in California doubled in 2018 in just one year. There are many clear reasons for this shift, firstly that in places like California, consuming cannabis is no longer a criminal act.

Though more importantly, cannabis is also no longer relegated to the disheveled stereotypes of bygone eras. Now, as a constant stream of new research emerges surrounding cannabis, people are learning of the plant's plentiful benefits, and people are beginning to consume cannabis for wellness and medicinal purposes. Heck, some people are even microdosing weed.

Lastly, a surge of female cannabis advocates like Whoopi Goldberg, Miley Cyrus and others are helping to shift the narrative around cannabis to incorporate more women.

2. Baby Boomers Are Big Cannabis Consumers

Gone are the days when smoking cannabis was purely for rebellious youth, as reports are finding that one of the fastest-growing segments of cannabis consumers are Baby Boomers.

Anyone aged between 55-75 is considered a baby boomer, and according to Eaze Insights, New Frontier Data and BrightField Group, they're carving a sizeable chunk for themselves in the legal cannabis market. Eaze reports that "first-time cannabis consumers grew by 140% thanks to adult-use legalization. Baby Boomers were one of the fastest-growing segments, increasing by 25% over the past year."

Baby boomers are being drawn into the cannabis market for similar reasons to the influx of women has occurred; stigma surrounding cannabis is washing away, medicinal marijuana is becoming legitimized, and lastly, unique to the baby boomers, is their expendable wealth.

Over the last two decades, baby boomers have seen their average net worth skyrocket to $1.2 million, while Millenials' wealth sits around the $100k mark. With many baby boomers being retired, they are left with time, and money on their hands.

New Frontier Data (NFD) identified several different types of cannabis consumers under the boomer umbrella, such as elderly men, typically caucasian, who range from using cannabis once a month, to some (often those who are divorced) using cannabis on a more frequent basis. These demographics of baby boomer men often smoke joints to unwind, relax, and help them sleep.

Then there are female baby boomers, who often purchase higher-end, more expensive medicinal cannabis products to alleviate health issues such as insomnia or anxiety, who are more likely to purchase CBD wellness products than to smoke a spliff.

An overlap among all types of baby boomers is their increased likelihood to suffer from chronic pain, which is one of the most common reasons people seek out medicinal marijuana.

3. People Are Beginning To Prefer Pot Over Booze

It's undeniable that in recent years, more people are becoming health-conscious. Whether it be going to their local gym or pilates studio, trying a new paleo or vegan diet, or putting down some of their favorite vices like smoking and drinking. Though interestingly, many are instead picking up a joint or a bong.

This was first noted in a 2016 report by Deloitte, who surveyed Canadians and found that many awaited the legalization of cannabis in the country so that they may replace their alcohol consumption with weed.

This was then borne out in the data, with states that legalized weed noticing a hefty chunk of their alcohol sales diminishing over time, ranging from between 13-20%.

It seems that even liquor companies realize this shift is occurring, with alcohol companies like Constellation Brands and Heineken investing in cannabis brands, possibly to cover some of their losses from the shift toward cannabis.

And while some may find this shift from booze to bud quite inexplicable, in the sense that people are simply replacing one vice with another, numerous studies seem to confirm that marijuana is far safer to consume than alcohol. Combine this with CBD's prevalence in the wellness space, and the astronomical rise of medicinal marijuana, and you have a pretty strong case for picking up a joint instead of a jug of alcohol.

As legalization continues to spread across the globe, we may further see alcohol and tobacco markets shrink in size, as cannabis consumes an ever-increasing portion of the market.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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