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Illicit Cannabis Use Still Prevalent

Illicit cannabis use is still prevalent in Canada despite legalization, and loyalty programs are of modest importance to cannabis consumers according to new data.

Cannabis Retailer commissioned Caddle to survey 9,473 Canadian cannabis users in May 2024 on their cannabis purchasing habits, the importance of loyalty programs and locally produced products, and how consumers learn about new brands.

Cannabis Purchases

Close to a quarter of respondents (23%) purchased cannabis in the past three months, up 2% from April’s survey. Out of the respondents, 19% of women purchased cannabis compared to 26% of men.

All of the age groups purchased more cannabis in the past three months compared to last month’s survey, with a particularly sharp rise among the Greatest Gen. Their purchase rate jumped to 24% in May, up from just 9% last month.

Breaking down cannabis use across generations over the past three months, Gen Z leads the pack at 30%, followed by millennials at 28%. Gen X comes in at 21%, while baby boomers sit at 14%.

Purchased cannabis in past 3 months

Illicit Cannabis Purchases

While all age groups saw an increase in cannabis purchases this month, the data also reveals a separate trend. One in four respondents reported purchasing cannabis from unauthorized, unlicensed dealers in the past three months.

There is also a gender gap in purchasing habits. 30% of male respondents purchased cannabis products from illicit sources compared to only 20% of women.

Illicit cannabis purchases increase as respondents get younger. Gen Z leads with 36% of respondents purchasing cannabis from unauthorized sources in the past three months. Millennials follow at 28%, with Gen X at 20% and baby boomers at 18%. Even the Greatest Gen showed some illicit purchases, with 4% reporting using unauthorized dealers.

Purchased cannabis from illicit sources

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs seem to be a moderately important factor for cannabis consumers when choosing a store. Over a third (31.7%) of respondents say a loyalty program is very important, while another 23% find it somewhat important. However, a significant portion (21%) are indifferent, and nearly a quarter (18.8% + 5.5%) find them not very or not important at all.

In general, male respondents placed more importance on loyalty programs than female respondents. For instance, 35.3% of men said the programs are very important in their decision to frequent a particular cannabis store compared to 28.0% of women.

Loyalty programs are most important to Gen Z (1997-2005) shoppers, with 39.1% reporting that loyalty programs are very important in their decision to frequent a particular cannabis store. This age group is also the most likely to say that loyalty programs are somewhat important (30.3%).

Importance of loyalty programs declines with age. Only 14.1% of Greatest Gen (1900-1945) shoppers say that loyalty programs are very important.

Brand Awareness

Friends and family are the top source for discovering new cannabis brands, followed by social media and retailer recommendations. Interestingly, traditional marketing tactics like email and influencers have a smaller impact, and over a third of respondents don’t actively research brands before buying.

How respondents learn about a brand

Men and women both rely on word-of-mouth from friends and family to learn about new cannabis brands. However, men are more likely than women to use almost all other sources,

Social media is the most popular way for younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) to learn about new cannabis brands, with 31.4% and 16.2%, respectively, reporting this method. In contrast, older generations (Greatest Gen and baby boomers) are more likely to learn about new cannabis brands through friends or family (20.5% and 21.1% respectively). Interestingly, email newsletters are more popular with older demographics than younger demographics.

Locally Produced Products

For cannabis consumers, the importance of locally sourced products varies. While almost half (49.5%) consider it very or somewhat important, a significant portion (25.8%) are indifferent. The remaining quarter (24.8%) find cannabis being locally produced is not very or not important at all in their purchasing decisions.

Men are more likely than women to prioritize locally sourced cannabis products. While 34.9% of men say it’s very important, only 26.9% of women feel the same. This trend continues with “somewhat important” where men are at 19.2% and women at 18.1%. Overall, women are slightly more likely to be indifferent (28.3% vs 21.6%) or not prioritize locally produced cannabis products as much in their purchasing decisions.

Younger generations (Gen Z and millennials) place a higher importance on locally produced cannabis products when making a purchasing decision, with 38.6% and 32.8%, respectively, reporting it as very important. Importance of local production steadily decreases with age groups, with only 6.4% of the Greatest Gen considering it very important. Overall, indifference is the most common response across all age groups, though less common among younger generations.

Importance of purchasing local

Tags: baby boomers (4), Branding (4), Caddle (9), cannabis consumption (27), cannabis industry trends (6), cannabis purchases (10), consumer data (28), Craft Cannabis (15), Gen Z (22), loyalty program (2), millennials (21), millennials cannabis consumer (10)