The following is adapted from Basis Technologies’ guide, Cannabis Advertising in the Roaring 2020’s. For even more cannabis advertising-related insights and statistics, download the guide today.
"Of course I know how to roll a joint.”
If you had to guess which celebrity is responsible for the above quote, would you choose A) Snoop Dogg, B) Seth Rogen, or C) Martha Stewart?
If you guessed C, you’re correct! Stewart, the legendary chef and entrepreneur, has publicly shared her forays into cannabis, serving as a strategic advisor for marijuana firm Canopy Growth and even launching her own CBD product line.
Stewart’s use of cannabis may seem surprising precisely because of who she is: a wealthy, female baby boomer who gives off major mom vibes. But research shows that Martha’s demographics are actually representative of a significant portion of cannabis consumers.
The fragmented nature of the cannabis landscape means that there’s limited data on consumer characteristics and behaviors. As the substance has become increasingly mainstream thanks to more and more states legalizing its use, all kinds of folks outside of the “stoner dude” stereotype have chosen to indulge.
Want to learn more about what demographics are consuming cannabis and how to market to them? Check out the following five cannabis consumer personas:
Women represent one of the largest untapped cannabis audience segments—and their consumption is booming. In fact, 37% of US women report consuming cannabis, and 28% say they use it at least once a month. Even more, from early 2020 to late 2021, cannabis sales to women increased by 55%. Some of the most common reasons women report using cannabis include to reduce anxiety, to help with sleep, and to relieve pain.
That said, stigmas around women consuming cannabis linger. As a result, there’s an opportunity for brands to help break down these stigmas via education, which will also help them form meaningful connections with female consumers.
Another big audience segment is the over 65 crowd, which represents one of the United States’ fastest-growing groups of cannabis users: The number of monthly users in this age group increased by 96% from 2017 to 2021.
Messaging focused on normalizing cannabis use for boomers—such as this campaign that sought to break down “war-on-drugs misperceptions”—can be particularly impactful. Still, many marketers struggle to reach this audience because they spend less time online. Utilizing traditional ad formats to educate boomers about how cannabis and CBD can fight the side effects of aging is one viable tack marketers can take to capture their attention.
Millennials are major consumers of cannabis—in fact, 39% of millennial users report consuming cannabis multiple times a day. And most millennials tend to use marijuana socially, with 62% reporting that they consider themselves “primarily or only recreational” users. Another common feature of the millennial audience is an interest in social justice and activism. Some brands have used marketing to both raise awareness of the racist history of cannabis regulation and capture the attention of socially-aware groups like millennials and Gen Z.
While people in the US have historically understood cannabis as an intoxicating substance, that perception is changing. It has been almost 30 years since California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis, after all! If you’re still not convinced, check this out: A 2023 study from the American Medical Association found that medical cannabis treatment resulted in “significant improvements” to survey participants’ “health-related quality of life” and that these improvements were “largely sustained over time.”
This changing general understanding of the uses of cannabis has created a big opportunity for brands to educate potential recreational consumers who are interested in using the product as part of their wellness routines—for instance, to promote relaxation, improve sleep, or relieve stress. The caveat is that marketers cannot assert that recreational products can diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease, per the FDA’s guidelines (learn more about cannabis advertising regulations here).
All the above groups—and many more—contain potential newcomer consumers. And, research shows that first-time cannabis consumers often dive into their new habit with gusto: 50% report consuming it five or more times per week, and 22% say they use it multiple times per day. Cannabis brands of all sorts can benefit by using marketing to educate and destigmatize cannabis for the US public. MedMen’s “Forget Stoner” campaign, which featured entrepreneurs, designers, and even police officers, is a good example of how brands can extend a hand to folks who may not have considered cannabis as "for them."
The cannabis opportunity is clear: In the US, the market was valued at $7.7 billion in 2020, and is forecast to reach $40 billion in 2030 (coincidence that that’s an increase of almost exactly 420%? We think not!).
To succeed in this emerging landscape, marketers must do their research, stay agile, and think outside the box. Those bold enough to embrace the industry’s complexity are bound to find some of their most rewarding and successful work ahead of them in the cannabis space.
To learn more about how the cannabis landscape has evolved, how marketers can navigate cannabis advertising regulations, and how to set your campaigns apart, check out our cannabis advertising guide, Cannabis Marketing in the Roaring 2020’s.