When you think about cannabis, it’s hard to not think about the slew of celebrities, often musical or comedic, who have used their status to advocate for pot, when it was under prohibition. Cheech and Chong; Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused; Bob Marley; Snoop Dogg; Seth Rogan and James Franco in Pineapple Express. Actors and musicians, with different styles, different crafts, and at different times, all have advocated for cannabis in different ways. But one thing about them is the same: they are all men. In fact, aside from Mary-Louise Parker’s Nancy Botwin in Weeds, it is difficult to think of any women who are prominently known for their connection with cannabis.
So when one thinks about cannabis, cannabis culture, and cannabis users, it’s easy to think about men as the catalysts. But in this case, life does not imitate art—data from the Maru/Matchbox Cannabis Chronicle shows that while men may dominate public pot culture, it is women who are the key to success for brands looking to thrive in the cannabis industry.
More Canadian Women Consume Cannabis than Men
Cannabis usage on the big screen may be dominated by men, but in reality, women make up a substantial portion of cannabis consumers.
In fact, just over one-half of both genders in Canada have ever consumed cannabis, and more Canadian women than men say they have consumed in the past three months:
Women are emerging from the shadows as cannabis enjoys the end of prohibition. And they are fashioning the industry in their own image. Magazines such as Miss Grass and Broccoli are written by women for women. Anja Charbonneau founded Broccoli, after seeing the magazines available in dispensaries. “I noticed they were all for men, by men,” Charbonneau explained to The Guardian. “Because cannabis is so new as a legal industry, it feels like there’s this opportunity to make women’s voices heard while it’s being built – and that’s pretty much never, ever happened with any other industry,” she said.
“It seems women felt like they didn’t have permission to talk about this really private part of their lives,” she says. “They’ve seen Broccoli as an invitation to communicate about it, and they’re like, ‘Let me tell you about my life.’ It’s unlocked something.”
Women are More Likely to be Medicinal Consumers
What pop culture and the movies have right – though just barely – is that recreational cannabis consumption is higher among men; 84% of men who consume do so for recreational reasons, compared with 78% of women consumers. Where women really differ from men is medicinal consumption – 72% of women consumers do so for medicinal reasons vs. 50% among men.
Women are Excited About Cannabis Innovation
Women are critical to the future financial success of the cannabis industry because women are more open to, and excited about cannabis product innovation.
Interest among men and women:
The types of articles in Miss Grass certainly reflect this. Titles such as “CBD Bath Bombs made me a Self-Care Enthusiast”, “Weed Saved me from an Eating Disorder” and “How to Read a Cannabis Label Like a Pro” are all on target, according to our Cannabis Chronicle research.
“Cannabis legalization is creating an insatiable appetite for information. Women are looking for alternative non-toxic, plant-based, holistic remedies for health and cannabis falls into all of those categories,” says Miss Grass cofounder Anna Duckworth in Forbes. “That’s why women are adopting cannabis as a wellness tool and making it a part of a much bigger approach to self-care.”
Women Set the Bar High
Targeting the wants and needs of women makes a great deal of sense, as our Cannabis Chronicle research has shown that women’s cannabis interests are different.
To understand consumer priorities, we asked them to rate the importance of 18 factors when evaluating a brand or product for potential purchase. While only slightly more women use cannabis than men, responses show that women have higher expectations for cannabis marketers, and have some meaningfully different priorities vs. men.
What is the same about women’s and men’s priorities?
Looking at the most important elements, men and women share two of the same top three, but women are more interested in premium products:
Most important elements when choosing a brand/product
Coming out of a time when cannabis was unregulated and potentially less consistent from experience to experience, it is important to both women and men that the cannabis they are consuming is natural, and that it has reliable and consistent effects.
What is different about women’s and men’s priorities?
Women have a substantially higher set of expectations when evaluating a brand or product to buy. They rate a majority of these attributes as being more important than men. So women are evaluating more, and their expectations seem to be higher. For brands, this means positioning will need to be prioritized appropriately, and articulated well in order to attract discerning women consumers.
Key difference in priorities between women and men
(only showing items where the gap between genders is 5% or more)
These priorities suggest women are more careful and deliberate in choosing brands, and prioritize premium brands that target them and provide guidance and education. Women are more interested in how the product will fit within their lifestyle and their community, while men are more specifically interested in unique, but tested strains.
For men, these priorities suggest a more transactional relationship with cannabis brands that starts with recommendations, and continues through online commerce. Men will likely get most of the information they need from the labels on cannabis packaging, while women will be looking for a much wider range of company and product information.
Women have long been underrepresented in cannabis culture, however their business could make or break manufacturers and retailers looking to solidify their place in Canada’s newly legal cannabis industry. The high bar that women have set will require brands to think carefully about their product innovation, how they market their products, and the customer experience they provide Canadians. The brands that are best able to meet these high demands will be the ones that flourish.
About the Maru/Matchbox Cannabis Chronicle
The Maru/Matchbox Cannabis Chronicle, first fielded in December 2018, is an ongoing study tracking cannabis consumption, cannabis attitudes, reaction to potential cannabis innovations, as well as awareness, usage, and attitudes of key brands in the cannabis space. The study is conducted among those residing in Canada, as well as U.S. states where cannabis is legal for recreational consumption.
For more information, please contact Kyle Davies:
m: (647) 980.6538