S10 Blog

Consumer Cannabis Behavior Trends In 2021—A Year In Review

The covid-19 pandemic and resulting lifestyle changes that subsequently swept the planet have radically and likely permanently impacted almost every aspect of American commerce. While these changes have been disastrous for many businesses, the cannabis industry has thrived in North America. 

With 2021 coming to a close, and a new year of post-covid marketplaces on the horizon, let’s look back at the trending news and consumer behavior trends from the past year and see what it will mean for the future of cannabis. 

Consumer Behavior Definition 

Consumer Behavior is a sub-discipline of marketing that emerged about a decade before the golden age of advertising began in earnest. It consists of studying potential consumers’ emotions, preferences, and attitudes to better predict their future buying habits. This information helps companies better cater advertisements and products to their audience. 

While consumer behavior data is primarily used by marketing departments, it’s also utilized in academia—particularly in the social sciences like anthropology, sociology, and behavioral economics.

See below for the cannabis industry news and trends from 2021 that are most impacting consumer behavior. 

Cannabis Use Increased During The Pandemic 

Covid 19 has been difficult for a wide array of businesses, particularly those that rely on face-to-face communication. However, while restaurants and airlines have taken significant hits during the pandemic, the cannabis industry has prospered.

Whether it has to do with stay at home mandates leaving people feeling bored, or the elevated anxiety about the spreading virus, studies show more people have been using more cannabis since the pandemic began. States with legal marijuana have seen record-breaking sales increases since 2020, and this trend is likely to continue into 2022. 

More Women Are Buying Cannabis 

Women only make up around ⅓ of cannabis consumers, but this percentage is steadily growing. In 2021, women are buying 3.2% more cannabis than they did in 2019. 

Additionally, women tend to purchase different cannabis products than their male counterparts. While cannabis flower remains the best-selling cannabis product among all demographics, women are more likely to gravitate towards products like edibles, beverages, and disposable vape cartridges.  

Gen Z Is The Fastest Growing Demographic

Many Zoomers are just now starting to hit the legal age for cannabis consumption in recreational states. Their generation is quickly becoming the fastest-growing demographic of cannabis consumers in the United States. Only a marginal percentage of Generation Z is 21 years of age, meaning that they will continue to expand into the coming years, so it’s essential businesses identify their buying habits early. 

Generation Z shows a preference for convenience by purchasing a larger percentage of pre-rolls compared to other generations, who primarily purchase whole flower. Additionally, Generation Z buys more high-THC products than CBD, signaling a preference for recreational use over medicinal. 

Most Zoomers are still in the experimental phase of their cannabis consumption and don’t have as much brand loyalty as older customers. According to the Headset demographics report, this is especially true with vape pens. 

More States Have Legalized Cannabis 

In 2020, four more states (Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and even the historically conservative Mississippi passed a ballot initiative to institute a medical marijuana program. While there’s been pushback from both the South Dakota and Mississippi gubernatorial offices, these new additions to the country’s legal cannabis market indicate that the industry will continue growing and spreading.   

Several more states have introduced cannabis reform legislation in 2021, and it’s likely only a matter of time before federal policy catches up to the states.  

Driving Factors In Product Selection 

According to one poll, THC percentages and price are the leading factors for consumers selecting a cannabis product. The same poll determined that flower and pre-rolls were the most desired cannabis products, closely followed by edibles and vapes. 

Additionally, 74% of those surveyed indicated that the brand and strain were both important factors they considered when purchasing a product. 

Will Flower Continue To Have A Dominant Market Share Percentage? 

Flower has been the best-selling cannabis product since recreational legalization first took place almost a decade ago in Colorado and Washington State. However, concentrates and vapes are on the rise. While it’s unlikely they will surpass flower in 2022, vape products make up a significant portion of dispensary sales. With Gen Z’s demand increasing and their proclivity for convenience documented, it’s likely that disposable vape cartridge sales will see a spike in the coming years. 

Our Collective Perception Of Cannabis Has Shifted

Just a short decade ago, cannabis was considered taboo in mainstream culture. Today, however, cannabis has an air of legitimacy thanks to legalization efforts and industry coverage from mainstream media outlets like Forbes, WSJ, and CNN. 

If the past ten years are any indication, cannabis will only become more socially acceptable with time. In fact, public opinion is already there. According to the Pew Research Center, an overwhelming 91% of American adults think cannabis should be legal. The noted think-tank conducted the poll in response to congressional democrats’ plan to decriminalize marijuana federally.

As the collective American perception of cannabis continues to evolve in this way, it’s extremely likely that we will see more cannabis reform legislation pass and the industry expand into new states.


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