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Legal marijuana faces hurdles not seen in other billion-dollar industries, but market research into consumer buying patterns and product development is making headway, dispelling myths about the typical marijuana consumer and giving insight into the cannabis consumer’s tastes.

In one study by New Frontier Data, analysts discovered that cannabis consumers are gravitating towards edibles and concentrate products, but moving away from flowers.

Demand for recreational cannabis flowers dropped 21 percent in 2016, and similarly in the medical marijuana market with a 22 percent decline. Conversely, recreational demand for concentrates saw an 11 percent increase, and a 17 percent increase among medical marijuana consumers. There was also an increase in the sale of pre-rolled joints, from 1 percent to 8 percent.

John Kagia, New Frontier Data’s VP of industry analytics, attributes these changes to a market that is operating “in the light of day,” and able to develop new products and methods in a legal environment.

“Concentrate-filled vape pens and sophisticated, dosed edibles simply weren’t available in the illicit market,” Kagia told The Cannabist. “Pre-rolled products have gone from an afterthought filled with leftover cannabis to a premium product made with high-end strains and sold in elegant, easy transport packages.”

Kagia also mentioned that concern for the health effects of smoking and discrete consumption could account for the increased demand for these products.

“You can smell a joint from a mile away, but vaping offers a discreet way to consume,”

he said. “Our society has also undergone a radical transformation in our views towards smoking tobacco, so the perceived benefits of vaping rather than smoking may also be one factor for the market shift.”

Edibles and other cannabis-infused products offer another way to discretely consume cannabis. Within this product segment, recreational sales outpaced medical sales by 300 percent during the first six months of 2016.

But medical marijuana patients are still spending. A decline in patients enrolled in Colorado’s medical marijuana program was expected when the state legalized recreational cannabis, but medical patients have brought balance to the market by purchasing premium edibles and concentrates. Overall, there was a 12,957 decrease in the number of registered medical marijuana patients from December 2015 to December 2016, but the taxes collected from patients during 2016 stayed consistent.

Research also showed that medical patients spend more than recreational consumers, and spend three times more overall. A second study was conducted by New Frontier Data, which collected data from over 300 markets across ten states. Medical patients made a purchase of $136 every 10 days, while recreational customers made a $49 transaction once every 14 days. According to Kagia, medical patients tend to purchase a single product in large amounts, while recreational customers tend to buy smaller amounts of a variety of products.

Beyond recreational and medical marijuana consumers, stakeholders in other industries are interested in the buying habits, purchasing power, and the overall demographics of cannabis consumers.

BDS has started tracking consumer trends in Colorado and California’s markets, and their research shows these markets are as diverse as they are large.

“We’re seeing some real differences between men and women, age groups, generations, attitudes and preferred methods of consumption,”said Linda Gilbert, who is leading this research for BDS.

said Linda Gilbert, who is leading this research for BDS.

For instance, men tend to use cannabis to unwind and socialize, whereas women tend to use cannabis to relieve stress and menstrual symptoms. Beyond that, cannabis users tend to be more active, are more likely to participate in outdoor activities, and are more likely to go to the gym regularly compared to non-users.

All of this research helps companies inside and outside the cannabis industry reevaluate how they approach cannabis consumers. “That’s one of the things that’s been really fascinating to me is how much it becomes part of a routine and lifestyle,” said Gilbert. “But it’s not a couch-potato lifestyle, it’s a healthy lifestyle.”

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