Who is the REAL Cannabis Drinks User?

It's not Newbies nor Microdosing Mamas.  

Cannabis drinks are a hotly discussed product type. Drinks are seen as a promising category for cannabis, one that will help bring the plant mainstream due to its proximity to alcoholic beverages. It's well-positioned to gain market share in the adult beverages category, with consumers reporting swapping alcohol for cannabis. But how popular are cannabis drinks in 2023? And who is using cannabis drinks?

How Many People Use Cannabis Drinks?

In Q2 2023, 16% of cannabis consumers used drinks

Brightfield Q2 2023 U.S. Cannabis Consumer Insights shows 16% of cannabis consumers have enjoyed a cannabis drink in the past 6 months. Looking from the beginning of 2020 to today, drinks usage peaked nationally in Q3 2020 when 22% of cannabis consumers reported use. This was the summer of 2020, when the pandemic kept us apart and out of bars - a perfect time to try a weed drink. Q4 2022, we saw the lowest percentage - only 15% - of users enjoying drinks. This was the first winter without a significant, world-stopping COVID variant to worry about, giving consumers a sense of normality, which for many, did not include cannabis drinks. 


What State Uses the Most Cannabis Beverages?

Drink use varies state by state

Overall, each market has nuances, and maturity of market does not predict drinks adoption. In Q2 2023, Washington, for example, saw 23% of consumers enjoying drinks - the highest incidence rate in the study. Meanwhile, neighboring Oregon only saw 13% of cannabis users enjoying drinks! Along with WA, California has a significant over-index for cannabis drink use, likely because of the proliferation of cannabis drink options in the state. Meanwhile, Arizona consumers are about in line with the cannabis population, with a 15% incidence rate of cannabis beverage use. 

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What Age Group Loves Cannabis Drinks?

Those under 45 are the most likely to use cannabis drinks

Young consumers are particularly interested in THC drinks. Brightfield Group's Wellness Consumer survey of the general population reveals a wider trend of young people moving away from alcohol. 68% of alcohol-using Gen Z and millennials say they are drinking less alcohol than in the past, and nearly a third of these consumers use cannabis as an alcohol substitute, according to. 


Consumers over 45 seldom pick up cannabis drinks - however, this could change if drinks are accepted in mainstream channels as they have been in Minnesota. With THC beverages in liquor stores and restaurants in Minnesota - where these consumers may already frequent - adoption across older age groups could proliferate. 


Do Microdosing Parents Use THC Drinks?

Yes! But dads are more likely to than moms.

One group that is thought to be the prime target for cannabis drinks brands is the "microdosing mamas” - women who have children in their household and report using cannabis a few times per week. While this group is more likely to have used a cannabis drink than the general cannabis consumer population, fathers with children in the home are much more likely to enjoy a cannabis drink.


Brands like to paint a picture of the "wine mom" becoming a "cannabis drinks mom," but it seems that the beer-drinking father is the better target. Of parents that consume cannabis 2 to 4 days per week, fathers are 32% more likely to report using a cannabis drink than mothers! 25% of these cannabis-using fathers say they enjoy cannabis drinks. 


Are Newbies the Main Consumer of Cannabis Drinks? 

No! Experienced consumers are the main group using THC drinks.

Many brands behave as if cannabis drinks are the best way to introduce cannabis to new users, believing that for newbies, drinks are more familiar than smoking. But looking at the data, it's not newbie cannabis users adopting cannabis drinks.   

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In the past year, only 9% of THC beverage consumers have been new cannabis users - either recreationally or medicinally. Who's taking up the lion's share? Three-quarters of drinks consumers have used cannabis "consistently" or "on and off" throughout their lives. These aren't newbies spending in the category. They are experienced users enjoying cannabis drinks as a part of their regular cannabis use.   


Targeting Experienced Cannabis Users

Getting to the consumers that count

People who use cannabis drinks are more likely to use nearly every cannabis product type. Their flower use is in line with the average cannabis consumer, but they are twice as likely to use capsules, chocolates, and tinctures, for example. 


Knowing that THC drinks are only a part of their regular cannabis intake, brands can't rely on the novelty of drinkable cannabis to impress these consumers. The most successful cannabis drinks in the nation are thoughtfully branded to appeal to consumers' desired effects of their cannabis.


How Big is the Cannabis Drinks Category?

1% of the market, but with growth potential

In 2022, cannabis drinks constituted $290 million in sales. While a big number, this is still just 1% of the U.S. cannabis market. Cannabis drinks are expected to see above-average market growth, continuing to outpace other categories through 2028. But as a minor category, it will still likely constitute only 1% of the US cannabis market in 2028.


However, the hemp-derived delta-9 THC market for drinks is booming in its own right. As states move to legitimize these hemp markets - as in the case of Minnesota and Louisiana - more consumers will be exposed to THC drinks. But with legislative schisms keeping cannabis-derived and hemp-derived THC apart, those on the cannabis drinks side face harsh competition from these accessible, usually more affordable hemp-THC drinks. 


Companies should ask themselves if they are appealing to the underlying desires and needs of existing drinks consumers to learn how to expand their reach. With fewer dollars spent on drinks compared to nearly all other product types, brand strategy has to be spot on to be successful in the category. 



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Updated: 9/27/2023

Originally Published: October 2022