Pandemic Stress and Isolation Are Changing Marijuana User Habits

Marijuana sales are up big during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marijuana sales are up big during the COVID-19 pandemic. Maria Levitov
Lifestyle adaptations during the COVID-19 pandemic could be changing the way we consume marijuana, according to a recent survey of cannabis users.

Colorado-based commercial marijuana analytics firm New Frontier Data analyzed responses gathered from around 4,600 pot consumers through a September survey intended to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their social practices and mental health. Unsurprisingly, almost every respondent (98 percent) said that they'd changed their daily social behaviors because of the pandemic, and 72 percent said they'd changed the way they consumed marijuana with other people.

Around 22 percent of participants reported that they'd stopped consuming marijuana with others since the pandemic began, while 11 percent stopped using marijuana altogether. According to New Frontier, the most common answer came from 26 percent of those who were continuing to consume socially, but said they were using their own products in order to avoid sharing.

If the amount of marijuana bought during the pandemic is any indication, consumption is definitely up. States with legal marijuana access have seen a significant increase in sales since the pandemic began in March. Colorado dispensaries tallied over $1.3 billion in sales from March through September of this year, according to the state Department of Revenue, and 2020 is on pace to record the highest annual marijuana sales total since recreational pot shops opened in 2014.

Marijuana users have pointed to stress and boredom as reasons for their increased consumption, and that's backed by the survey.

"Among the most common reasons consumers gave for using cannabis include promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and aiding sleep," writes New Frontier industry analytics director Molly McCann. "For many, the pandemic has subsequently heightened those needs."

Over 50 percent of survey participants reported using marijuana specifically to improve their mental health during the pandemic, according to New Frontier. Parents could account for the largest demographic of users turning to the plant for sanity, as those rates were highest among consumers who live with children under eighteen (63 percent).

The pandemic has affected one group for which it's hard to have sympathy: the marijuana mooch. According to New Frontier, about 67 percent of marijuana users who only used socially before COVID-19 had tried using it alone during the pandemic.

"That reflects a reliance of some social consumers for their friends to provide the cannabis they consume, while they rarely or never purchase it themselves," McCann suggests.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell