Reaching the Key Cannabis Consumers

Departments - Upfront | Sales Trends

January 27, 2016

While the full legalization of recreational cannabis for adults in many states may be enticing some tourists, cannabis-newbies and baby boomers to experiment with marijuana, heavy consumers (those who consume at least five times per week, either for medical or recreational purposes) are driving the industry. These consumers account for more than 75 percent of the total volume of cannabis consumed, making them crucial to the success of most cannabis businesses.

Converting these heavy consumers from the black market to the legal market will be a powerful win for the cannabis industry, both to grow revenue and to prove to policymakers nationwide that legalization will reduce crime and illegal activity. However, the industry currently is not yet doing a stellar job of connecting with these patients and consumers. A recent Brightfield Group survey of more than 500 adult medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers shows that of heavy users who are qualified to purchase through legal channels (adults who live in states where recreational is legal or who are qualified medical marijuana patients in states with a dispensary system), a third are still buying from the black market and another 22 percent grow their own cannabis.

While many heavy consumers do buy through medical marijuana dispensaries, either exclusively or in addition to their black-market purchases or home growing, they are not very loyal to any one dispensary.

So what can cannabis businesses do to reach these consumers and win their loyalty? Start with great budtenders: Heavy consumers expect budtenders to be knowledgeable and rely on their expertise to select quality products to meet their exact needs. More than a quarter of heavy consumers report basing their purchasing decisions solely on budtender recommendations and nearly two thirds take their advice very seriously. For dispensaries, this means that building loyalty among heavy users will require knowledgeable, well-trained budtenders to ensure patients and customers have a great experience. Budtenders need to be able to identify the unique selling points of each product.

For cultivators and processors, it is important to win the hearts of budtenders in your target markets, as their recommendation is by far the most effective form of advertising. Budtenders who are convinced of your product’s quality, as well as understand your product’s specific traits and effects, can describe (and help sell) your product to consumers.

About the Author: Bethany Gomez is director of research at the Brightfield Group (, a research and analytics company that studies cannabis consumption patterns, demand trends and regulatory developments at the state and local levels. Gomez has extensive experience in quantitative and strategic research, specializing in market research in the consumer goods industry, including packaged foods, alcoholic drinks and tobacco.