Understanding Gen Z's Cannabis Trends

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The generation is coming of age in an unprecedented time of cannabis normalization.

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August 5, 2021

More people used cannabis at home during the pandemic than in previous years, and data from 2020 and 2021 reveals interesting trends about when cannabis consumers—and specific generations—preferred to smoke or ingest cannabis.

In Q4 2020, Brightfield reported an uptick in consumers using cannabis with video games—58% of all U.S. cannabis consumers reported cannabis consumption before or while playing video games. In Q1 2021, this fell to 53%. While a slight dip from the previous quarter, it still represents an 83% increase in this pairing from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021.

However, the percentage of Gen Z cannabis consumers—those born between 1997 and 2010—using cannabis before/while playing video games continued to increase in 2021. In Q1 2021, 69% of Gen Z cannabis consumers reported using cannabis during this occasion. While younger consumers likely have more time to play video games than older generations, pre-pandemic cannabis use with video games was not as prevalent as it is now. Only 27% of Gen Z cannabis consumers reported use during this occasion in Q1 2020.

Other findings reveal that Gen Z may be an outlier among cannabis consumers.

Cannabis, the new social lubricant?

Video gaming isn’t the only occasion Generation Z pairs with cannabis. “Hanging out with friends at one of our homes” is the second most common use occasion among Gen Z, while ranking third for all cannabis consumers. In Q1 2021, 86% of Gen Z cannabis consumers said they use cannabis while hanging out with friends, up from 75% in Q4 2020. One possible reason is people started to feel safer socializing as the COVID-19 vaccines rolled out and U.S. case numbers fell.

However, that increase was not universal. The percentage of cannabis consumers reporting using cannabis with friends at their homes from Q2 2020 to Q1 2021 remained steady, hovering between 67% and 68%.

Gen Z is coming of age in a time of unprecedented cannabis normalization and, in many places in the U.S., young people 21 and older are choosing cannabis instead of alcohol. In Q1 2021, 63% of Gen Z cannabis consumers said they use more cannabis than alcohol, and 19% say they never or rarely drink. Both numbers have increased year over year—in Q1 2020, 52% of said they used more cannabis than alcohol and 14% reported never or rarely drinking.

Millennials—those born between 1981 and 1996—did not behave the same way. The number of Millennials using more cannabis than alcohol remained largely the same from 2020 to 2021.

Time will tell whether Gen Z’s increased cannabis consumption during the pandemic continues or wanes. For the short term, it seems as though this preference is more than a fad.

Madeline Obrzut is a content specialist for Brightfield Group.