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Relaxing tokes and sleepy snacks: How cannabis use occasions drive product choice

When imagining the average cannabis consumer,  we might think of an evening smoker who leisurely puffs away on their preferred bud to relax after a long day. And while many who smoke and vape do consume alone and later in the day, the consumer landscape is both complex and diverse. Consumers seek out cannabis products that seem best suited for each use occasion, which can be defined by who they’re with, where they are, and what they want to feel. By formulating and marketing products to specific use occasions, functional benefits, or need states, brands can increase their market share by providing the right product, for the right usage occasion, to the right consumer.

When and why do people smoke or vape? 

Out of all cannabis form factors, inhalables are still king.  According to BDSA data, 72% of consumers in adult-use states do inhale and 54% prefer inhalables. Consumers who prefer inhalables are much more likely to characterize their consumption of cannabis as recreational. Still, a large portion of consumers who prefer Inhalables still also consume for medical or wellness benefits (60%). When we dive deeper into BDSA Consumer Insights, we see a “mixed bag” of primary reasons for  consumption. Of the top five reasons consumers say they smoke or vape, two fall into social/recreational (relax/be mellow, get high) and three fall into wellness/medical (relieve pain, manage anxiety, manage stress).

A look at three common “need states”

Need state 1: Unwinding with inhalables

Our image of the smoker taking a puff to unwind at the end of the day is actually pretty accurate. Inhalables skew significantly more toward the evening than edibles or topicals. BDSA’s data shows that 47% of consumers prefer inhalables in the early evening, while 61% prefer consuming later in the evening. The takeaway? Ensuring inhalable products cater to one of the largest consumer need state segments (aka relaxing later in the day) is critical for generating relevance and sales volume within the competitive (and sometimes fragmented) inhalables market. 

Need state 2: Pain relief

The majority of consumers give pain relief as their #1 reason for choosing cannabis (That’s 14% of consumers in adult-use states; the second most common reason is “relax/be mellow” with 10% of the vote). Users of inhalables, edibles, and topicals all list pain relief as one of the top five benefits of cannabis. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, our data show that pain relief is much more of a priority for topical consumers, with 60% of consumers citing pain relief as a benefit from consuming topicals, compared to 46% who claim it as a benefit from using inhalables, and 44% with edibles. According to our survey, 59% of topical consumers use the product at least daily, and use occasions are more spread out throughout the day than with edible or inhalable consumers. This makes sense, given that pain is often a chronic issue that requires all-day relief.

Need state 3: Sleep aid

In adult-use states, 70% of cannabis consumers consume edibles and 34% claim edibles as their preferred format. (However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t consume other formats. Of consumers who prefer edibles, 47% also consume inhalables and 40%  use topicals.) When it comes to edible consumers, 33% consume at least daily and 49% consume in the evening. This is not surprising since the convenient, dosed, and timed effect and duration of an edible can work nicely as a sleep aid. Here are some BDSA-tracked edible products that have keyed in on the consumer need for cannabis as a sleep aid in an edible format:

Wyld Gummies

Wyld’s wildly popular Elderberry 2:1 THC:CBN has seen $15.3 M in sales for Jan-July 2021 across California, Colorado, and Nevada. The third best-selling gummy edible product of 2021 so far across these states!

PLUS Sleep

PLUS CBN gummies have seen $3.6 million in sales for Jan-July 2021 across both California and Nevada.

1906 Midnight Drops

Midnight Drops is a 1:1 THC:CBD formula that’s seen $5.7 M in sales for Jan-July 2021 across California, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts.  Best-selling pill product of 2021 so far across these states!


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