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Millennial Consumers Expected To Shape The Cannabis Market Moving Forward

June 21, 2022

As in other consumer goods industries, Millennial consumers loom large in the U.S. cannabis category, and marketers continue to target this demographic as they look to expand their businesses. Shedding further light on Millennial preferences, analytics and market research company New Frontier Data has released a new report focusing on their cannabis purchase and use habits. There are around 72 million Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996) in the U.S., making the cohort the largest generation by population. The children of the Baby Boomers, Millennials are now between their late 20s and mid-40s. They also make up 38% of cannabis consumers, larger than Gen X at 29%, Boomers at 19%, or Gen Z at 13%.

Across the board, Millennial cannabis use has risen in the past several years. Citing survey data from 2017 and 2020, New Frontier shows that respondents aged 30-34 reported a 36% rise in cannabis use within the past month. That figure was even more pronounced for those 35-39, whose use was up 51%. Of that consumption, 62% was done by consumers for only or primarily recreational use. Millennials list “relaxation” as the top reason for consumption, followed by “reducing anxiety” and “stress relief.”

As for product preferences, 63% of Millennials consume both flower and non-flower products, with only 14% opting exclusively for other form factors. That 14% skews heavily female, with 20% of Millennial women choosing not to smoke, compared with only 9% of men. The generation most frequently consumes cannabis through joints (24% of the time), edibles 15% of the time, or a weed pipe 12% of the time. Vapes made up 9% of consumption and bongs only 6%.

Millennials are most likely to acquire their cannabis from a brick and mortar retailer, with 35% reporting retailers as their primary source. Another 26% acquired cannabis from friends or family, while 13% used a delivery service. 20% reported still relying on a private dealer. When buying, Millennials are the most likely to make a purchase of $200 or more; almost half of Millennial purchases are between $50-$200.

New Frontier also surveyed what consumers do while enjoying cannabis. “Among all generations, watching TV/movies and listening to music at home rank among the most common consumption activities. However, Millennials were more likely to report certain consumption activities (including working), which is supported by their rates of full-time employment,” the study’s authors wrote. Other activities listed include eating (43%), playing video games (41%), cleaning/chores (35%), socializing with friends (38%), and reading for pleasure (20%).

In its key takeaways, New Frontiers reinforced the centrality of Millennials to the cannabis industry and legal reform in the U.S. The generation demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of the product above other age groups, backed up by a willingness to spend. Millennials are also expected to play a key role in shaping the adoption of social consumption spaces and will quicken the pace of cannabis reform as they win elected office and gain access to the levers of power.—Danny Sullivan

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