For the past six months, BDS Analytics has been working on a survey to analyze marijuana consumers in Colorado and California. The company surveyed 1,000 people in each state and broke respondents into two categories: acceptors and rejectors.
"One of the things that has been remarkable to me is that even among the rejectors, there's a fairly high sense that they're not objectors. They do think it should be legal and people with medical issues should be able to use it," says Linda Gilbert, head of the company's consumer research division. "I was surprised, because I expected to see more conflict."
Gilbert says she was also interested to see that men and women use cannabis differently, both in their habits and in the products they prefer. "Women tend to be, not surprisingly, much bigger into topicals. It seems men [are] motivated by relaxing, chilling out, being mellow, and women are using it to relax but also to help manage pain, anxiety and stress," she says. "Women are more purposeful in terms of self-care use of cannabis than men."
From these results, Gilbert has made some assumptions about where the cannabis market is headed. "I think that whole self-care part of it is really going to grow the marketplace," she says. "The partying aspect isn't going away, and that'll remain part of it, but I think where we're going to see real growth is in that aspect."
As support for that theory, Gilbert points out that many of the people surveyed said that cannabis has become part of their daily routine, not just something they use to socialize with friends.
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The survey also shows that older people are becoming more receptive to cannabis. Gilbert had seen that from her personal experience, as well: Her father, who lives in Pennsylvania, keeps asking her when he'll be able to use cannabis for his dementia.
"My father — I couldn't believe this, a former prosecuting Republican district attorney — said to me, 'Linda, when am I going to be able to get marijuana in Pennsylvania?'" Gilbert recalls. "He has gotten it into his head, and he may very well be correct, that he could quit taking his anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication if he could get marijuana. He just doesn't like taking those pills."
Comparing data from Colorado and California was fascinating, Gilbert says, because California was the first state to legalize medicinal use in 1996, but its recreational program won't be implemented until next year. Meanwhile, Colorado didn't legalize MMJ until 2000, but it was the first state to allow the sale of legal recreational cannabis.
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The survey showed that 96 percent of Coloradans believe there should be some kind of legal marijuana. Almost 80 percent believe marijuana has medical benefits, while in California, 75 percent of those surveyed believe marijuana has medical benefits.
One place Colorado falls behind? Testing. Just 43 percent of Coloradans believe there needs to be more safety and efficacy testing of marijuana, versus 50 percent in California.
More differences: 32 percent of Californians believe marijuana is addictive, versus only 21 percent in Colorado; and 24 percent of Californians believe marijuana use leads to other drugs, while that number is a mere 12 percent in Colorado.
"I'll bet we'll see those numbers change in California when they see what the impact of legalization is going to be," Gilbert says.