The Normalization of Cannabis

July 31, 2019

Do you support legalizing cannabis for…?

The rise of cannabis as a “legal” consumer product can be felt across the United States and Canada, as increasingly people are either consuming or considering consuming marijuana. From medical marijuana (legal in 33 U.S. states) to recreational “adult-use” consumption (legal in 11 states and federally in Canada), the taboo around cannabis is receding, rapidly.

This sea change in attitudes towards cannabis is almost certainly tied to the large majority of Americans – even those who do not consume marijuana – who believe in the medicinal properties of cannabis. According to the PSB Civilized Media Cannabis Culture Poll, more than 7 in 10 Americans – 72% – believe that “cannabis can help sick people who wish to use it as medicine.” As the benefits of cannabis become more believable and the perception of its dangers diminish, the drug has become more widely accepted. Support for legalizing cannabis has doubled in just 20 years. Today, more than 4 in 5 adults in the US support the legalization of cannabis in one form or another; in 2000, fewer than one in three Americans supported legalizing marijuana.

Much of the cultural normalization of marijuana is due to the fact that the average cannabis consumer looks, well, average. Those who consume continue to defy some age-old “stoner” stereotypes. Consumers are more likely than non-consumers to be parents, to be employed full time, and to engage in an incredibly robust personal life, from exercise to going to museums and concerts to seeing movies. The reign of Cheech and Chong as the standard-bearers of pot has given way to the suburban middle-class professional enjoying cannabis in his or her free time.

This trend is also beginning to be felt in American politics. As the profile of the cannabis consumer shifts to what one might consider an “average American,” so too does the topic as a political issue. Cannabis consumers are registered to vote, are civically engaged, and tend to skew slightly liberal. This isn’t lost on those in the presidential race, as most of the Democratic candidates for President have addressed cannabis publicly and support its legalization. For the American voter, the topic has emerged from the unspoken to the commonplace. In fact, two thirds of Americans say they would be comfortable voting for a political candidate who openly acknowledges their cannabis usage, a far cry from the “I didn’t inhale” politics of the 1990’s.

Looking ahead, it is reasonable to believe that cannabis, and its less potent cousin, cannabidiol (otherwise known as CBD), will continue its growth as an industry to be reckoned with. Some experts believe the cannabis market in the US will grow from its current sales of about $50 billion to as big as $250 billion by 2025 – roughly the size of the cigarette industry today. More than 1 in 5 non-consumers are open to trying it. And today’s cannabis consumers have money to spend, and spending it they are – the average cannabis consumers spends roughly $100 a month on cannabis and cannabis-related products. And as large market entrants emerge from multiple industries, such as Food and Beverage, Pharmaceutical, and CPG, the importance of understanding the cannabis consumer, and treating them the way consumers from more mature industries are treated, will only increase.

INSIGHTS THAT COUNT

  1. Support for the legalization of cannabis is at an all time high; according to the PSB Civilized Media Cannabis Culture Poll, 83% of US adults support legalizing cannabis in some form.
  2. More than 7 in 10 US adults believe in the medicinal properties of cannabis, which largely explains the legalization of medical marijuana in 33 states.
  3. The average cannabis consumer looks and acts like the average non-consumer, with slight differences (slightly younger, slightly more male, slightly more liberal).
  4. That said, 90% of cannabis consumers say they plan to vote in the 2020 Presidential election, on par with the rest of US adults.
  5. This is reflected in the fact that the majority of Democratic candidates have taken a public stance on legalizing marijuana.
  6. The cannabis industry is poised to explode in the coming years, with analysts suggesting the industry could grow to $250B by 2025.

Jason Boxt is Executive Vice President & Managing Director in PSB’s Washington, DC office.  For more information on PSB’s most recent research on the Cannabis Consumer, please contact Jason at jboxt@ps-b.com.

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