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New Data Shows Medical Marijuana Consumers Far Outspend Recreational Users

Patients using marijuana as medicine purchase more cannabis more often than recreational users.
New Data Shows Medical Marijuana Consumers Far Outspend Recreational Users
Image credit: scott_craig | Getty Images

In a data-driven business environment, everyone is waiting on the latest statistical reports to show what directions consumer spending -- an obvious clear indication of consumer attitudes -- is heading. As a relatively new industry, the legalized marijuana sector still is working on how to best serve consumers and discern trends to sort out the hype from the reality.

That’s created a whole new side business in marijuana: data analytics.

A company that has stepped to the forefront in this area is New Frontier Data. The company has partnered with Baker Technologies, which provides customer relationship management and marketing automaton platforms to cannabis businesses, for access to an immense database of legal marijuana transactions.

In April, based on this data, the company released its annual “The Cannabis Industry Report: 2017 Legal Marijuana Outlook.” They uncovered some interesting trends.

Related: Researchers Amazed by Cases of Cannabis Helping Children Failed by Conventional Medicine

Medical marijuana dominates the market.

Recreational marijuana -- or adult-use marijuana -- has been the focus of much of the recent media attention, partially because of its reflection of wholesale change in how millions of Americans view marijuana. Voter have now made recreational marijuana legal in eight states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

However, the report found that consumers of medical marijuana -- legal in more than half the states -- buy much more frequently and spend more than recreational users. The report included the following findings:

  • In 2016, recreational users shopped for cannabis, on average, every 14 days and spent $49 per transaction.
  • That same year, medical marijuana users shopped every 10 days and spent $136 per transaction.
  • In 2017, medical marijuana sales are expected to total $5.3 billion, with a projection to reach $13.2 billion annually by 2025.
  • In 2017, recreational marijuana sales are expected to reach $2.6 billion, with a projection to reach $10.9 billion by 2025.

The numbers provide needed insight for entrepreneurs looking to enter the retail cannabis business, New Frontier Data CEO Giadha Aguirre De Carcer said in a news release.

“Given the size of the market, knowing who your customers are, how and when they shop, and what they buy are fundamental building blocks of developing any effective retail strategy,” he said.

Related: Nation's First Cannabis Drive-Through Opens In Colorado as Cannabis Sales Boom

Flower power on the decline.

The report also found that cannabis consumers are increasingly turning away from the traditional way of consuming marijuana – smoking dried marijuana, known as the flower.

The report found consumers purchase of flower dropped dramatically in 2016. In January, flower sales made up 85 percent of adult-use sales, but that number fell to 64 percent by December, according to New Frontier Data.

Medical marijuana sales mirrored the trend, with flower sales falling from 87 percent of the market to 65 percent between January and December. The inference is that consumers are moving in large numbers toward other ways of using marijuana, including edibles and vaping.

New Frontier Data is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with an office in Denver. The company uses advanced analytics to crunch the numbers of millions of marijuana sales transactions. A copy of the full report can be purchased on the company’s website.

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