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A Closer Look at Millennials and Cannabis

Millennials are a generation with a growing love for cannabis. Not only are they the most likely demographic to have tried cannabis, but they also have the most favorable opinions on it. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of this population, 85 percent, support legalization of medicinal cannabis in the US. 

Further evidence of the millennial obsession with cannabis tells us they are eager to pour their money into cannabis stocks. They may also be increasingly choosing cannabis over alcohol in recreational settings, and are more inclined to choose cannabidiol (CBD) over conventional prescriptions for mental health (according to a UK survey).

This generation loves the plant in every way, shape, and form. In every measure that matters, millennials are the generation to watch, and one largely responsible for the legal, recreational, and medicinal evolution of the plant.

What We Know About Millennials and Cannabis

Millennials, defined here as those born between 1981 and 1996, often get a bad rap from their family members, employers, and the media. The assumptions, while often inaccurate, paint this generation as overly sensitive, selfish and struggling to make ends meet. They have been called the “me” generation, the “anxious” generation, and recently the “loneliest” generation.

But, there is an argument to be made that millennials should be also called the cannabis generation. 

Using data pulled from RYAH Data, 40.1 percent of all patient data submitted between January 1, 2018, and August 1, 2019, was by millennials. They form the largest percentage of users within the RYAH Data ecosystem. Other surveys show a similar millennial majority rule.

Per a Yahoo News/Marist Poll compiled in 2017, 52 percent of Americans who reported using the plant were millennials (18 to 34 years old in this survey). In Canada, millennials are also the most likely to have used cannabis within the latest reporting period, released August 15, 2019.

Within this demographic, there is only a small gender divide: Men are slightly more likely to consume, even when it comes to medicinal applications. They tend to prefer THC-rich strains, compared to the strain preferences of women.

Digging into the information within RYAH Data, mood disorders are a primary reason why this generation turns to the plant in the first place. Anxiety, stress, and depression are the top three ailments treated with cannabis. Interestingly, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood swings, and social anxiety disorder also made it into the top ten reasons for use. The Yahoo News survey indicated the most common reason millennials consumed cannabis was “to relax.”

While a majority of this demographic still hide their consumption from their parents, an equal majority confirms they never feel guilty about their use. Additionally, data from the Yahoo News/Marist Poll confirms most millennials prefer to consume in social situations (75%) rather than alone (25%).

Cannabinoid, Method, and Strain Preferences

Millennials may be the easiest generation to market cannabis to, because most are already familiar with the plant to some degree. The majority of RYAH Data users, 64 percent, confirm they have moderate experience with the plant. This generation may have grown up watching anti-drug commercials on television, but they have also witnessed the evolution of cannabis legalization and the growing scientific support for medicinal applications.

A fascinating conversation between Cy Scott, co-founder and CEO of Headset, Inc., and Jonathan Small of Green Entrepreneur covered the millennial mindset in more detail. 

Headset, which provides business intelligence to the cannabis industry, has found millennials tend to gravitate towards potent products (concentrates) and convenient ones (vapes and prerolls). They are the least likely population to purchase edibles, and they also tend to avoid the strictly “health and wellness” options like topicals, creams, and cosmetics.

From the information pulled from the RYAH Data subset, millennials don’t seem to have a measurable inclination towards either of the major cannabinoids: THC or CBD. The top strain for this demographic is the THC-rich Super Lemon Haze (upwards of 22% THC, with little CBD), while the next two popular strains are CBD-rich: Harlequin (up to 15% THC, 10 CBD) and Cannatonic (up to 15% THC, 12 CBD). Women tend to lean more towards CBD-rich options, but only minimally so.

Headset Inc. has found similar results, with women preferring slightly more CBD than men. The data compiled by Headset found little preference among this generation for CBD-specific products, although Headset data is skewed towards products sold through licensed retailers, who generally lean towards THC options.

What is the preferred method of consumption among this generation? Scott stated that, as each market comes online, flower sales prevail. Slowly, customers learn about cannabis and familiarize themselves with new products. Eventually, loose flower sales begin to decline as consumers move towards other methods of consumption like vaporizers and concentrates. Non-smokable methods are frequently preferred by this group, perhaps because smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products has fallen out of favor.

A Lift consumer survey gathered from Canadian reviewers indicated millennials (born 1977 to 1995) were the most likely to prefer vaping when compared to every other generation. 

Like No Demographic Before, Millennials are the Cannabis Generation

Very clearly, millennials represent a critical demographic for the cannabis industry. This demographic is more likely than any other to rely on the plant for therapeutic applications and also to use it for recreational purposes. Millennials have had a front-row seat to the legalization movement, and have witnessed the positive impact of cannabis on those around them. They have a very rosy opinion on the plant and are not afraid to talk about it.

It is worth mentioning that older generations are likely underrepresented in the data. Baby boomers and older populations are less comfortable with technology, which is so crucial to much of the data collection represented here (mobile apps, online surveys, etc.) An older demographic may also prefer not to disclose their use due to fear of judgment or persecution.

With that said, millennials hold such a vast majority in every category that counts, it would take a lot to upset their significant lead. Millennials love cannabis and are the reigning cannabis demographic. To succeed in the industry is to succeed with millennials. 

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