Generational Highs: Which Generations are Buying Marijuana Now and Why

Lately, information about cannabis and CBD are everywhere from products in grocery stores, CBD specialty stores, and headlines across magazines and news sites.

The increasing interest in cannabis across consumers in the United States appears spurred on by the loosening of marijuana laws. While still illegal on the Federal level, several states have legalized the use of cannabis for medical purposes, recreational purposes, or both.

As a result, the cannabis market is booming.

As market researchers and scientists explore this emerging consumer market, they’re finding that cannabis use is impacting all generations from the Baby Boomers through Generation Z.

Chronicles & Headylines

To better understand this impact, researchers and market experts are taking a closer look at how these substances are being viewed and used by each generation.

Generational Views on Legalizing Marijuana

A 2019 poll by Quinnipiac University that surveyed 1,120 voters nationwide found every generation, but the Baby Boomers were largely in support of legalizing marijuana.

Younger voters between 18 to 34 years old were the most active supporters of legalizing marijuana at 83%, while 63% of older Millennials and Generation X individuals polled were in favor.

Interestingly, older adults over the age of 65 were closely split on whether marijuana should be legalized. Among this group, 44% supported the legalization of cannabis and 49% did not.

When it comes to medical applications, all generations were in agreement. A surprising 93% of people polled supported using medical marijuana when prescribed by a doctor. This finding suggests that views on cannabis use are shifting in the United States, regardless of the generation.

Which Generations Are Using Cannabis and Why

As views about the legalization of marijuana begin to shift, so have the rates of use among adults in the United States. Legal marijuana is a $10 billion industry, with sales projected to skyrocket in the next five years. This may be due to the diversity of new consumers.

A study released by Eaze in January 2019 found first-time cannabis users had grown by 140% in 2018. This increase can be partly attributed to a rise in female users which almost doubled. According to the study, 38% of cannabis users were women.

The increasing acceptance of CBD (hemp-derived cannabidiol) as a beneficial wellness product also seems to be increasing sales among new users. Use of CBD nearly doubled from 2.6% in 2017 to 4.8% in 2018.

But which generations are using marijuana and CBD?

Millennials Are Driving the Market

The average age of cannabis users is 31 years old, according to Eaze’s findings. This is supported by a 2017 Yahoo/Marist News Poll which indicated that Millennials were using recreational marijuana more than any other generation.

Changing cultural attitudes about cannabis may be one factor contributing to this group’s use of marijuana. Additionally, Millennials are turning to recreational marijuana instead of alcohol to relax.

Sales of alcohol have been on the decline among this cohort. Many indicate reduced alcohol use to avoid the calories and after effects experienced with alcohol as well to reduce the risk of drunk images being shown on social media.

For this generation, recreational marijuana can be used socially without as much fear of a negative stigma. That said, they are cautious about openly revealing their cannabis use to coworkers or bosses for fear of negative consequences.

Cannabis companies have taken note of Millennials’ interest in marijuana and CBD. Companies are holding their attention by marketing products and their companies as lifestyle brands, showing how cannabis can fit into and support the lifestyle Millennials enjoy.

Additionally, Millennials aren’t just using marijuana but also investing in cannabis stocks faster than any other generation.

Generation Z Projected to Become the Dominate Consumer in the Future

Generation Z is the first United States generation to grow up in a society that’s becoming more accepting of marijuana use.

Before even the oldest of this generation was born, California had already voted to legalize marijuana. They have been raised hearing discussions on potential medical applications of cannabis and CBD as well as seeing CBD products available in regular stores and online. Many live in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

The exposure to this viewpoint shows in their open attitude toward using marijuana. Of all generations, they report being the least concerned about others knowing they use marijuana.

In the first few months of 2018, Generation Z represented about 1% of sales in the legal market. But, this percentage continues to rise as more of this generation become legally old enough to purchase cannabis.

It’s still too early to know exactly how this generation will use marijuana since only a few are legally old enough to buy marijuana products. That said, surveys are suggesting that Generation Z will be twice as likely as the national average to use cannabis.

Like the generation before them, there are signs that they may also prefer using cannabis as a form of relaxation instead of alcohol.

Baby Boomers Are Increasing Their Use for Health Reasons

Despite this generation’s conflicting views about legalizing marijuana, Baby Boomers are the fastest-growing group of cannabis users. They also spend more per month than other generations.

Among this group, individuals age 65 and older had the greatest increase in marijuana use.

One reason Baby Boomers are turning to marijuana is for medicinal purposes. Many Baby Boomers, especially those who used marijuana when they were younger, perceive cannabis as a safer alternative to pain medications.

More Baby Boomers have indicated reducing or stopping over-the-counter pain medications in favor of cannabis products than other generations.

Baby Boomers have also been driving the CBD market as they look for alternatives to help with pain relief, sleep, and anxiety.

Their use of cannabis may help them cope with medical conditions well enough to continue in the workforce longer.

Unfortunately, research has revealed some concerns and troubling trends among this group. Those who use marijuana appear more likely to use other drugs, including alcohol, illicit drugs, and tobacco.

While this generation perceives cannabis as safe and many have experience using marijuana from their youth, the marijuana from the past was not as potent as today’s strains. A fact they may not be aware of.

Additionally, there is little scientific research on how cannabis impacts older adults, who may now be more susceptible to its effects. Even though Baby Boomers are turning to these products to improve their health, scientific studies are limited. This makes it hard to judge what amount they should use and whether these products may interfere with certain prescription medications.

This can be a challenge for medical doctors as more Baby Boomers seek guidance on using cannabis as an alternative to prescription medications.

Generation X Continues to Buy

While Generation X doesn’t rank as the highest consumers in studies, this group does appear to purchase both legal marijuana and CBD.

Although raised in a culture that held a strong stigma against marijuana, this cohort does embrace legalizing marijuana overall and supports medical uses.

As this group grows older, it will be interesting to see whether their use grows as the social stigma of cannabis lessens. It especially will be worth observing how women of this generation approach CBD and legal marijuana, since women, in general, are increasingly turning to these products for health and wellness purposes.

What Understanding Generational Use Can Reveal About The Future of Cannabis Use

Understanding how each generation views and uses cannabis can help researchers focus their studies on the most pressing questions facing medical doctors and consumers. This is particularly important since consumer use is outpacing known scientific findings. Medical doctors currently are faced with having to address questions of dosage and possible drug interactions with limited data to help them draw appropriate conclusions.

Furthermore, companies can also target their products and services to better reach and serve their customer base.

With improving attitudes about cannabis in the United States, questions, concerns, and the potentially positive and any negative role of marijuana can be further explored.

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