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Survey finds most cannabis consumers are ‘stoners’ – is that a bad thing?

A new survey has found that the majority of cannabis consumers in 2021 could be classified as “stoners,” and that maybe we need to rethink what exactly that “stoner stereotype” should be in the first place. 

Carried out by the cannabis industry analysis firm BDSA, the survey found that at least 62% of consumers who use inhalable cannabis products use them at least once a day, and that while around 60% of consumers in adult-use states consume in the evening, 30% of consumers are still “wake and bakers.”

The BDSA survey also found that while the findings may illustrate that the majority of consumers fit the “stoner stereotype” of being daily cannabis users, more than 80% have at least some college education, and around 50% hold down a full-time job. In addition, while the stoner stereotype may also bring to mind young people, 40% of these daily consumers are over the age of 40, according to the survey. 

In a sense, the image of a “stoner” which is presented by the study is one that could apply to any law-abiding citizen who likes to have a glass of wine “at least once a day” – especially in the evening hours. 

According to a 2018 survey by Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, 50% of the sample population (1,191 respondents) said that they drink wine several times per week or daily. In addition, research has shown that people with a college or post graduate degree are much more likely to regularly purchase wine than people with only a high school education, and that they spend more than three times as much annually on wine.

In other words, like daily cannabis users, daily wine drinkers are more likely to have a college education and be employed. So is there a class or education-based stigma at play here with cannabis that doesn’t hold up to the facts?   

According to Kelly Nielsen, BDSA’s VP of Insights & Analytics, it may be time to update that stoner stereotype. 

“What we’re seeing is that the heaviest users are those that are experienced in the cannabis space and not necessarily the new entrants, but those heaviest users don’t fit a quote unquote historical stoner stereotype,” Nielsen said. “So if you think of this concept of young, burnout users, we’re seeing that a majority of the heaviest users are consuming daily but aren’t fitting that stigma.”

She also stated that while historically heavy, daily cannabis use is more associated with inhalable cannabis, “one of the most interesting things that we’ve seen over time is that the consumers who are either edibles users or prefer edibles are bringing edibles into their daily lives as well.” 

She added that “we’ve seen that 62% of inhalable cannabis users are daily users, but also 40% of edibles users are daily users. So over time we’re seeing that this has absolutely made its way into habitual life.”

Smoking marijuana and playing video games
Is time to update the typical stoner stereotype? (Shutterstock)

Nielsen described these daily users as an older, more established population. She also said that while the cannabis industry is making major moves to try to bring in new users and users who consume less cannabis or in lower doses, it’s the heavy users that are powering the industry. 

“I think in any industry there’s always a desire to bring in new users but new users to an industry aren’t going to be the heavy users.”

Or as BDSA wrote in a blog post this week, “the “stoners” among us are not just a sizable segment of the consumer base, but they have also played a crucial role in driving the growth of legal cannabis markets.”

They added that while there is a segment of cannabis consumers that are drawn towards low-potency products, “high potency products have been a mainstay in the industry and continue to drive sales.”

There is some reason to believe that some of these high figures for getting high are connected at least in part of the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey published in November, 2020 found that 46% of all respondents reported increasing their cannabis consumption since the pandemic began. The latter study also provided data to shore up the assertion that the “stoner stereotype” may need to be reconsidered, now that cannabis has such a greater level of acceptance in the workplace. According to the survey, 73% of professionals feel comfortable talking about cannabis with their coworkers and 58% are comfortable speaking with their boss or clients about weed.