What criteria do you weigh when you walk into the dispensary? How do you decide what cartridge to buy, what concentrate to nab, what flower to get? Do your preferences change when you’re buying edibles? And when you finally make your selection out of all the choices, what was the deciding factor? According to a new study, consumer choices at the dispensary aren’t motivated by esoteric qualities like strain origins or cultivation methods or terpene profiles, etc. Instead, its just the plain old love of a good bargain. And after that, what you might call bang for your buck: how strong is it?
Turns out, at least according to this study, cannabis consumers are simple folks with simple preferences. They want weed that’s potent and not too pricey.
Study Aims to Highlight What’s Driving Consumer Choices
As states have crafted the legal and regulatory frameworks for recreational cannabis, they’ve mostly been flying blind. Sure, they could look to other states with programs that are a few years in, or consult an endless field of analysts and industry experts. Of course, they’ve all done exactly that.
But the truth is that so much about the legal cannabis space is unknown, especially to policymakers, let alone marketing agencies and business operators. And one of the blankest spaces on the map is consumer preferences. People just haven’t been legally buying weed for very long, and so it’s hard to know exactly what forces are shaping consumer trends and preferences in the industry.
So for everyone from those who write cannabis regulations to those who design packaging, data on what makes buyers choose a certain product is highly valuable. Hence a new study, just published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, titled “The impacts of potency, warning messages, and price on preferences for Cannabis flower products.”
The study, as the title indicates, just focuses on flower purchases. Leave it to further studies to run the experiments on edibles and concentrates. For now, what did this study do?
Consumers Prefer Low Price, Lots of Cannabinoid Content, Study Says
Researchers conducted an online survey in 2017 and gathered responses from 2400 adults aged 21 years or older across 6 U.S. states with legal adult cannabis use. Of those 2400, half consisted of consumers who purchased and smoked flower in the past 12 months. The other half, however, were people who didn’t buy or consume flower in the past year.
The survey gave participants 12 “choice scenarios.” Each scenario offered 3 cannabis flower products, each with different levels of THC, CBD warning messages and price. For each scenario, it was also possible to opt out and choose no product. Using the survey choices, researchers then analyzed for consumer preferences.
What researchers found was that across the board, lower price and higher CBD were major preference drivers. Both cannabis consumers and nonusers went for the low-cost option that was highest in CBD. The breakdown for medical vs. recreational users was perhaps unsurprising. Medical consumers preferred higher CBD products, while recreational consumers went for the flower with higher THC quantities.
But what about the relative importance of those attributes? According to the study, price was no option for medical consumers. Or at least it wasn’t the most important for medical users, who were the only group for whom price wasn’t paramount. For them, CBD content was the most important. For all other consumers, it was price that was most important, followed by THC content for recreational consumers and non-consumers.
Warning labels did shape preferences somewhat, however, and that may be useful to future policy choices. According to the study, warning labels featuring graphics of drugged driving or text warnings increased consumer preferences for a flower product. FDA disapproval warning, however, drove consumers to other choices.