In a political climate with strict party divisions, cannabis has long been included in the lengthy list of issues that one party supported and the other party opposed. The last few years, however, suggest a change in how political parties approach cannabis. With the news of President Joe Biden pardoning those convicted of federal marijuana possession and the upcoming legalization ballot measures, cannabis reform will continue to be a part of the political conversation. Recent polls and consumer insights from Brightfield Group reveal a growing trend of liberalizing consumer opinions. With 19 states already legalizing adult-use cannabis and 5 more on the ballot this fall, both conservative and liberal consumer tastes are changing overwhelmingly in favor of legal cannabis use.
Consumers’ cannabis opinion is liberalizing
A recent poll conducted by the National Cannabis Roundtable found that most Republican voters support cannabis reform in some way. A whopping 73% of Republicans “agree that legal cannabis businesses should be entitled to the same rights as other legal businesses.” The poll also found that more than half (73%) of GOP voters favor medical marijuana legalization. An even split in Republican opinions towards adult-use legalization – 47% in favor and 46% opposed – shows a growing trend of liberalization in cannabis prohibition. With other polls suggesting a similar phenomenon, it is clear that cannabis is becoming a bipartisan issue.
Republican usage trends
Brightfield Group consumer insights data reveals that Republican consumers are more likely to be introduced to cannabis by a doctor. More than half of surveyed Republican consumers are also registered medical users. These Republican consumers are more likely to spend a premium on cannabis with the majority of consumers spending upwards of $100 a month of cannabis products. Republican consumers are also more likely to consume edibles and less likely to consume cannabis flower than their Democrat counterparts. This follows a larger consumer trend of medicinal users being more willing to buy premium cannabis products to treat medical issues. These users will be less interested in markers such as taste and packaging and more interested in desired effects and product type.
Selling to Republican consumers
As of October 2022, there have been several cannabis reform bills introduced to federal lawmakers. While many of those bills have been Democrat-led efforts, some Republican-led reforms have also made headlines this year. Cannabis reform outgrowing its strictly partisan roots as public opinion shifts in favor of adult-use cannabis. A notable example of this is the five states where marijuana legalization is currently on the ballot: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Despite the vast differences in the political makeup of these states, the data suggests that all five states are likely to pass cannabis reform measures.
As more historically Republican states legalize adult-use cannabis, the challenge for the cannabis industry will be adjusting marketing strategies to serve a more conservative consumer. These consumers will likely require a different approach than early-cannabis adopters who tend to be younger and more liberal. By understanding the differentiators of the conservative cannabis consumer, cannabis companies may discover lucrative new markets across the US.