Spotlight: Year in Review

Departments - Upfront | Sales Trends

A look at the biggest trends of 2017 and the ones that will keep growing in 2018.


2017 was a significant and eventful year for cannabis markets in the United States; we witnessed further maturation of marijuana’s legal landscape and identified important market trends:

Say Goodbye to the Wild West

Long unregulated or legally gray medical markets, including California, Michigan and Montana, are becoming formalized and regulated. The “Wild West” that characterized the cannabis industry in years past is quickly disappearing, as a more transparent, accountable and regulated industry begins to emerge across the board.

Flower and Pot Brownies in Decline; Cartridges on the Rise

As consumer and brand sophistication push forward, the products initially adopted in early legal markets have dropped in popularity, according to data from cannabis market research firm Brightfield Group.

Flower, for example, still makes up a substantial portion of both recreational and medical sales, but it is rapidly losing ground to products that are more discreet and user-friendly. Early adopters of legal cannabis were in large part those who already used marijuana regularlyoften in its most accessible form: flower. Many new users seek more subtle consumption methods, such as vaping.

Furthermore, though initially in high demand as new legal markets began to emerge, baked goods’ popularity has declined rapidly as dispensaries seek products with longer shelf lives. However, sales of edibles such as sugar candy and drinks have been on the rise. This is in large part attributed to consumers’ demands for more easily microdosed options.

A Microdosing Boom

In fact, microdosed products emerged left and right in 2017. These less potent, consistently dosed products target medical users, newbies and more sophisticated consumers looking to use cannabis regularly while still being able to function throughout the day. Combine the vast consumer growth expected to follow California’s recreational market launch with the continued adult-use expansion in Nevada and along the East Coast, and microdosing is projected to explode in 2018, following trends in other states and medical markets.

CBD Garners National Interest

Hemp- and marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD) sales combined to create a nearly $500-million market in 2017 and are expected to balloon in 2018 and beyond. Given CBD’s non-psychoactive nature and medicinal value, as well as its increasing popular and congressional support (in January, dozens of legislators came forward to challenge the Drug Enforcement Administration’s definition of hemp-derived CBD as a Schedule 1 substance), the stigma surrounding CBD continues to subside as its popularity surges. CBD products have been legalized or are accessible in nearly all U.S. states, bringing many consumers and patients into the fold who previously could not or would not seek out cannabis products. All of this makes CBD an important market to watch in 2018.

Bethany Gomez is Brightfield Group’s director of research. She has extensive experience in quantitative and strategic research, specializing in the market research of the consumer goods industry. Gomez has also worked as an analyst and consultant on a wide variety of projects for private companies, nonprofits and multilateral organizations.

Jamie Schau attained a B.A. in International Studies and an M.A. in International Development from the University of California, San Diego. Since early 2015, she has been a market analyst with Brightfield Group, where she performs quantitative and qualitative analyses of various aspects of the U.S. marijuana markets.