Part II: Not your average flower shop. What and where are consumers buying recreational cannabis?

By David Schneer

4.3-Minute Read

Welcome to our second blog post regarding our recent study to understand consumer perceptions and usage of recreational cannabis. If you missed our first blog, you can read it here.

In this post, we will look at recreational cannabis, the product – what forms people are consuming, how they’re acquiring it, and relative importance of a variety of cannabis attributes.

Which method of cannabis consumption is preferred? In our study, we found that recreational cannabis users tend to favor flower/bud over its other applications, with 62% reporting they consume it weekly or more often. Edibles represent a fairly distant second place, with one in three recreational users consuming them at least weekly.

Why is that? While the overall edibles market (which includes non-THC, CBD-based consumables) is widely expected to increase, a number of factors may give consumers pause. According to the New York Times, “Ingested pot takes longer to produce a high than smoked pot, making it harder to gauge the right dose to achieve the desired effect, which increases the risk of an overdose, experts say. Ingested pot also takes longer for the body to clear.”[1] There exists a relative lack of regulation over dosing, packaging, and labeling of edible cannabis products, which contributes to a lack of consumer understanding regarding how to safely use edibles. This, in turn, has led to a rise in medical events reported in emergency room visits.

Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that ER visits attributable to inhaled cannabis (e.g., flower/bud) were more likely to be attributed to excessive vomiting while patients who suffered a medical issue related to edibles were more likely to report acute psychiatric symptoms, intoxication, and cardiovascular symptoms. After controlling for product sales, researchers found that ER visits due to edibles were 33 times higher than expected.[2]

It is interesting to note that despite significant media coverage of the negative effects of vaping, one in four recreational cannabis users in our study reported vaping cannabis one or more times per week.

Once perhaps a shadowy transaction, the rise of legal dispensaries has provided users an increasingly available avenue to acquire these products. Our research points to dispensaries as the top avenue for those seeking to purchase these products (61%). A 2018 study[3] among American and Canadian marijuana users identified the top five factors driving this preference for dispensaries:

  • Higher quality products
  • Better prices
  • Safety of products
  • Range of products
  • Convenient locations


While the cannabis industry is described by some as the “wild west,” it is mature enough for consumers to have developed priorities regarding what is important to them in recreational cannabis. To support these priorities, it is advisable for the industry—like any other industry—to keep consumer needs top of mind when developing product, marketing collateral, and messaging.  Of critical importance is product quality (89%), followed closely by price (81%).

While growing practices (57%), reviews/recommendations (56%), extraction techniques (54%), and brand (38%) were not rated as highly, this does not suggest these attributes are unimportant. Rather, they are not necessarily considered table stakes in the way that quality and price are perceived. These secondary attributes should be considered clear differentiators for consumers when making their purchase decisions.

 Stay tuned as we release more findings from this research study. Till then, contact us if you’d like to learn more.




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