How to Measure Cannabis Consumer Buying Habits

african woman looking at cannabis bottle close up

As cannabis becomes increasingly legalized and used recreationally throughout the United States, it has become evident there is a lot to learn about cannabis consumer buying habits. 

With many unknowns facing the cannabis and marijuana industry, conducting different types of market research can be a great place to start for brands, dispensaries, cultivators, and marketing agencies.  

Measuring cannabis consumer buying behaviors includes reviewing factors such as:

  • Frequency of purchasing and using cannabis
  • Primary reasons for the use of cannabis 
  • Preferred ways to consume cannabis
  • Selection of cannabis dispensaries 

In this article, our market research company shares a real-world example of conducting market research with cannabis users to understand their shopping habits and preferences.

cannabis consumer report slides - drive research

Don't waste time and resources guessing what cannabis users want – let our 2023 Cannabis Consumer Insights Report guide you to success. 

The Future of the Cannabis Industry

In the coming years, the number of states with legalized cannabis use is expected to increase significantly, especially in surrounding states where cannabis use has been legalized.

The cannabis industry is expected to grow by billions and billions of dollars over the next few years. 

It’s clear to see cannabis is a massive industry and growing.

However, it’s important to remember each of these markets is unique in the types of cannabis consumers they attract.

A recreational cannabis consumer in California is going to have many different consumer preferences and habits as compared to a cannabis consumer in Massachusetts. 

Since there is no one-size-fits-all definition for a cannabis consumer, it’s important to conduct market-specific research to better understand the needs of cannabis consumers in each specific geography. 

Value of Understanding the Buying Habits of Cannabis Users

Measuring cannabis consumer purchasing behaviors can provide valuable insights for businesses operating in the cannabis industry.

Here are a few reasons why it's important to do so:

  1. A better understanding of customer needs: By analyzing purchasing patterns, businesses can gain a better understanding of what their customers want and need. This information can be used to tailor marketing messages, improve product offerings, and create a better overall customer experience.

  2. Identify trends: Measuring purchasing behavior can help businesses identify trends in the market. For example, they may notice that a certain type of product is selling particularly well, or that customers are more likely to make purchases during certain times of the day or week. This information can be used to adjust inventory levels, plan promotions, and make other strategic decisions.

  3. Increase sales: By understanding what motivates customers to make purchases, businesses can develop targeted sales and cannabis marketing strategies that are more likely to be effective. This can help to increase sales and improve overall profitability.

  4. Stay competitive: In a rapidly-evolving industry like cannabis, businesses need to stay competitive. Measuring purchasing behavior can help businesses keep up with changing customer preferences and stay ahead of the curve.

Measuring Cannabis Consumers' Buying Habits

The best way to identify how and why consumers buy cannabis is through market research. This can include online surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Though, if you're looking for a quick, cost-effective methodology that offers quality insights, an online survey is your best bet.

Below we outline a real-world example of our market research company measuring cannabis consumer buying habits with an online survey.

Project Background

MassLive Media hired Drive Research, our online survey company, to conduct a survey among recreational and medicinal cannabis users in and near Massachusetts. 

Since the media and marketing organization works with several brands in the cannabis industry, MassLive Media wanted to conduct a market research survey to understand how cannabis consumers make their purchasing decisions, such as choosing a dispensary. 

Objectives of Measuring Cannabis Users Buying Habits

Since recreational cannabis has only been legal in Massachusetts for a few years, there is still a lot to learn about cannabis consumers. 

The objectives of the online survey focused on gathering feedback and opinions of recreational and medical cannabis users, specifically surrounding their purchasing decisions. 

With many cannabis dispensaries in Massachusetts already open and several others in the works, one of the objectives of the market research was to understand if cannabis consumers were brand loyal yet.

Approach to Surveying Cannabis Consumers

To meet MassLive Media’s specific market research objectives, our market research company designed a custom survey to collect feedback from cannabis users. 

Our team followed the standard online survey process as outlined below.

online survey process

Kickoff meeting

After signing a market research proposal, the study began with a kickoff meeting. This 30-60 minute conversation is a great starting point to learn more about our client's objectives, goals, timeline, and ideal insights they want to uncover.

Survey design

Based on the objectives uncovered in the kickoff meeting, our market research team began drafting the survey.

The survey included 29 questions and would take respondents an average of seven minutes to complete. 


Once the survey was approved by the client, our team began programming and testing the survey. After all data quality checks were complete, we set the survey into fieldwork with a trusted third-party panel.

The screening criteria for the survey measuring cannabis consumer buying habits included:

  • 21 years of age or older 
  • Located in/near Massachusetts
  • Have used cannabis/marijuana in the past 12 months
  • Have shopped at a cannabis dispensary in Massachusettes in the past 12 months 

The survey results were available to the client upon the start of fieldwork through an online reporting link.

The online reporting link allowed MassLive to see the live collection of the survey data, which was broken down question by question.

Drive Research online survey portal 

Analyzing the results

After fieldwork was complete, our cannabis market research company wrote an executive summary highlighting the key finding for the overall results from the cannabis consumer survey.

The five-page report also included breakdowns by key categories including age, cannabis enthusiast vs. non-enthusiast, and medical users vs. recreational users. 

Results of the Cannabis Market Research

The survey to measure cannabis consumer buying habits earned over 400 responses. At the 95% confidence level, the survey findings offered a 4.9% margin of error. 

What exactly does the margin of error mean?

If the survey were conducted with another random pool of 400 cannabis consumers across New England, results would yield within +4.9% or -4.9% of the stated totals in the reports. 

The margin of error can be used as a guideline to understand the high reliability of these results.

The cannabis market research provided MassLive Media with fresh data and insights specific to the New England cannabis market. 

Taking Action with the Results

Having proprietary cannabis consumer data was highly beneficial to MassLive Media.

Ultimately, MassLive Media was able to use the results of cannabis market research in four different ways: 

  1. Obtain press coverage and generate backlinks using the cannabis survey data 
  2. Inform marketing, content, and strategy for cannabis brands
  3. Presentation at NECANN, a major cannabis industry conference
  4. Host a webinar with cannabis brands and dispensary decision-markers

Additionally, within an hour after their webinar presentation at the cannabis industry conference, the media and marketing company already had several website form fills and scheduled lead calls from cannabis brands. 

Beyond generating new leads, MassLive Media can also use the data from the cannabis consumer survey and make effective marketing decisions for their cannabis brands knowing they have a clear understanding of New England cannabis consumers. 


Final Thoughts

Overall, measuring cannabis consumer buying habits can provide businesses with valuable insights that can be used to improve operations, increase sales, and stay competitive in a rapidly-evolving industry. T

he greatest way to measure these purchasing behaviors is with market research. Methodologies such as online surveys and focus groups are excellent tools to gathering cannabis consumer data to drive decision-making.

Measure Cannabis Consumer Buying Habits with Drive Research

Drive Research is a full-service market research firm, specializing in the cannabis industry. Our team can execute a variety of qualitative and quantitative market research studies for cannabis dispensaries across the country.

To learn more about our services, contact Drive Research by your preferred method below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

elizabeth sincavage author of market research company blog

Elizabeth Sincavage

Elizabeth has a curious mind and is never afraid to ask “why?” She discovered her passion for research and exploring data while completing her bachelor’s degree at Marist College. As a researcher, she believes you’re never truly done learning.

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