Who uses cannabis? The modern consumer is changing

Wondering who uses cannabis? We’ve got the scoop. From hippies to celebs—here’s how cannabis culture got to where it is now.

When it comes to cannabis, the biggest stereotype is that cannabis consumers are unmotivated stoners with a constant case of the munchies. But that’s all changing. Just step into any cannabis store and you’ll see a diverse demographic of people with different backgrounds, professions, and world views, proving that there’s no longer a specific type of person who uses cannabis.

A new legal era for cannabis

Legalization is changing the perception of cannabis. Recreational cannabis is available for purchase in 11 U.S. states⁠—including Washington D.C.⁠—and all across Canada. Other communities across the U.S. are working to decriminalize marijuana possession, while some, like California and Illinois, are going a step further by expunging past arrest records. Meanwhile, in Canada, there is a law that allows people to apply for a suspension on their arrest record—but progressive change is still moving slowly. However, it’s clear that cannabis use is no longer relegated to the shadows. 

The evolution of the cannabis store has also pushed cannabis into the mainstream. By incorporating contemporary design elements like marble countertops, tablet menus, and lots of natural light, dispensaries have become more accessible to both first-time users and long-time customers. Nowadays, buying cannabis is almost like a trip to a modern tech or clothing store. Beyond the storefront, you’re just as likely to read about cannabis in the style section of The New York Times or Gwenyth Paltrow’s infamous GOOP as you are in High Times. It’s clear that there’s been a shift in perception.

With a new era of legalization, there has also been an explosion of different cannabis products on the market, pushing retailers to get creative—where legally possible—in how they attract consumers from a marketing and packaging perspective. And in markets where edibles are available, the stereotypical pot brownie now shares the shelf with high-end candy options like organic, gluten-free pineapple-habanero gummies.

So, who uses cannabis now?

As a result of all these changes, cannabis consumption rates are up. In Canada alone, 18% of citizens said they consumed cannabis in the first quarter of 2019—just a few months after legalization—compared to 14% in the first quarter of 2018. Of note, the rate of people trying cannabis for the first time almost doubled from the year prior. 

Since recreational cannabis use has become more socially acceptable within the parameters of the legal framework, a large collective of ‘cannabis curious’ individuals have been able to satisfy their curiosity. This new landscape is also helping people to actively incorporate cannabis into their daily lifestyle—using strains that can either optimize their performance at work or help them wind down at home.

With the growth of the health and wellness sector, there’s also a new wave of consumers actively seeking products that reduce stress, relieve pain, and increase focus. Cannabis happens to fit the bill as it offers a variety of attractive effects that leave most consumers satisfied. 

The wellness and therapeutic benefits that come from CBD—an increasingly popular cannabinoid with little to no psychoactive effects—are particularly appealing to health-focused individuals that might not consider consuming cannabis in any other way. Products in this realm can include CBD capsules, tinctures, topicals, or oils that can be dedicated to promoting relaxation, providing relief, and helping users manage stress. But the wellness buck doesn’t stop at CBD. By marketing themselves as a health-forward brand, the likes of Whoopi Goldberg’s female-focused Whoopi & Maya and other cannabis wellness brands are producing CBD and THC products that appeal to a previously untapped market.

Beyond the health and wellness sector, cannabis is also becoming a prevalent product for athletes. In late 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency made the landmark decision to remove CBD from its list of banned substances—showing a more comprehensive understanding of the cannabinoid. CBD can act as a natural, non-addictive alternative to over-the-counter painkillers. Athletes using CBD to relieve sore muscles and recover include Eugene Monroe from the NFL, female MMA fighter Liz Carmouche, retired NHL player Riley Coat, and many more.

Celebrities are putting their brands behind cannabis

Pop culture is also doing its part to help normalize the idea of cannabis use. Stepping beyond the perpetuated stereotypes of the past, a new wave of content shows off people who can consume marijuana and still lead productive lives. An excellent example of this is HBO’s High Maintenance, which began as a successful web series. The TV series features cannabis consumers from all walks of life, treating them without judgment. 

But perhaps the biggest reason why cannabis has become less stigmatized in recent years is the sudden influx of celebrity endorsements. Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson have been replaced by younger, hipper advocates like Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer from Broad City. While some celebs are open about their THC use, others have latched on to the CBD craze—did you know both Jennifer Aniston and Busy Phillips use CBD to help with stress? 

Stars are also taking advantage of CBD’s beauty properties. CBD has been claimed to help with acne, eczema, and other skin disorders, and you’ll now find it in everything from serums to body lotions to cleansers. These products are widely available outside of the cannabis store at popular chains like Sephora and CVS, reaching an entire swath of North America that may have never been interested or involved in the cannabis industry. 

Thanks to the evolution of the cannabis industry—and to some A-list stars—the plant has been able to shed its stigmatized reputation of the past. With this shift, we’re seeing a growing market of companies reaping the benefits, as well as a growing consumer base that wants to try out their products. 

Want to learn more about the cannabis industry and where it’s going? Read more here.

Photos: Robert Nelson / Unsplash, Abbi Jacobsoen and Ilana Glazer from Broad City — lev radin / Shutterstock