Who Are California Cannabis Consumers?

By Tricia Cleppe | July 14, 2017

California, the first state to legalize the medical use of cannabis back in 1996 and famous for its rich growing history in the Emerald Triangle, has long been a mainstay and exporter of culture surrounding the cannabis plant.

This rich history has led to an incredibly large sector of their state’s economy. California’s cannabis market hit $6.7 billion in sales in 2016, more than every other adult use cannabis market in the United States combined.

According to New Frontier Data’s market projections released earlier this year, they expect California’s medical cannabis market to be worth $2.4 billion by 2021 and their adult use market to be worth $3.9 billion by the same year.

California has always been a powerhouse when it comes to consumption and cultivation of weed, but who exactly are the consumers powering the demand? What are their preferences, age, gender, annual income, interests? How do brands create and market products to their end users if they don’t really know anything about them? Can we extrapolate data about California cannabis consumers to consumers in other states?

When it comes to cannabis consumers, these questions have largely gone unanswered. For decades, the plant was bought and sold through black market channels, serving a demand but unable to create the infrastructure to understand it, thanks to state and federal law.

But as the cannabis industry develops, more and more pertinent data is being gathered about the people who prop up this multibillion dollar industry…and the results might not be what people expect of “stoners”.

Who are California cannabis consumers?


A survey conducted in California received 10,000 user responses, and their findings challenge stoner stereotypes of a previous time.

Some of the most significant findings to uncover the reality of who cannabis consumers are, versus stereotypes held about them, include:

  • 32% of respondents were female, with 59% of females consuming cannabis every day.
  • 51% of respondents hold a degree or postgraduate degree, made even more significant because only 39% of California residents hold the same level of education.
  • 91% of respondents hold a full-time job, employed in a wide variety of industries, with technology leading all at 19%. Of the vast majority of respondents with full-time employment 58% consume cannabis everyday.
  • 49% of respondents have an annual household income exceeding $75,000. The income bracket of $100,000-$149,000 was the most common annual household income of respondents.
  • One in five respondents are parents, and 63% of parents surveyed consume cannabis daily.

What aligns nearly all 10,000 respondents? Rallying around the idea of “reduc[ing] or replac[ing] alcohol and pharmaceutical consumption to find natural relief and enjoyment from marijuana.”

These findings show that the average daily cannabis consumer is concerned about their general wellness, gainfully employed, and making an annual household income above the national average, and many are parents.


We know these findings challenge the stoner stereotypes held by those who have a serious misunderstanding of cannabis consumers, but it also challenges marketing norms in the cannabis industry.

These findings show the need for mature marketing efforts that diverge (but can still pay credence to) an outdated era of cannabis. Cannabis brands looking to expand their market share should especially focus on marketing towards female consumers, who are often left out.

These respondents included wellness-conscious individuals who are interested in cannabis products that are sophisticated and safe, and cannabis brands would be wise to align themselves with these customers. Simple examples of this in practice include edible companies making products using organic, healthy food items like granola or dried fruit, rather than sugary cookies and other baked goods; making vape pen cartridges and other concentrates without harmful chemicals and additives; or complying with and communicating strict lab testing protocols to ensure a safe product, even if their state guidelines lack the rigidness.

The cannabis consumer of today is far different than what many would expect. If cannabis brands don’t pay close attention to the incoming data about these consumers and act accordingly, they will lose out to the brands that do.



Tricia Cleppe

Tricia is the Sr. Manager of Marketing at New Frontier Data and has previously worked with cannabis non-profit organizations, including Spark The Conversation.

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