US legal and illicit cannabis sales totaled US$97 billion in 2021: report

U.S. consumer spending on legal and illicit cannabis reached an estimated US$97 billion in 2021, according to a new report from New Frontier Data.

On Wednesday, the Washington, DC-based data and analytics firm partnered with the cannabis wellness company jointly to release the report Cannabis Consumers in America: Dynamics Shaping Normalization in 2022.

New Frontier Data has surveyed more than 20,000 consumers since 2018, analyzing cannabis consumer behavior to produce the report, which estimates cannabis sales surpassed spirits ($86 billion) last year, while matching beer spending.

Nearly half (46%) of all survey respondents reported using cannabis daily, with two-thirds using it more than once a week as product selection expands with consumption methods more practical and discreet.

“Cannabis is no longer a one-size-fits-all industry,” Gary Allen, CEO of New Frontier Data, said in a statement. “It is now a business imperative for brands, retailers and operators to do the homework necessary to understand their ideal customer, why they consume and which products they prefer.”

Read more: Global cannabis sales rise 41% in 2021: BDSA

Read more: US hemp production valued at US$824 million in 2021: USDA survey

Other major findings from the report include that flowers account for half of all legal sales nationwide, but the majority of consumers are now using non-flower products as additional offerings hit the market.

The report says the main reasons for consumption include relaxation, pain management, improving sleep outcomes, treating medical conditions and improving overall well-being.

Highlighting a generational shift in the acceptance of cannabis, the report found that more than half of adults aged 18-34 use it at least once a day, significantly more than among older age groups.

Chart via New Frontier data

Positive outcomes from medical cannabis use lead to increased acceptance, as 57% of medical cannabis patients report that their condition has improved significantly, with 93% reporting at least some improvement.

“It is increasingly important to understand what drives and defines optimal individual customer experiences,” said Eric Gutshall, co-founder and chief data officer. “As we continue to gather more insights, our partnership with New Frontier Data will provide the industry with a more holistic view of consumer behavior and preferences.”

Read more: 83% of Americans consider war on drugs a failure and support new approach, poll finds

Read more: 7 in 10 Americans say smoking weed is morally acceptable

More than half of the US population currently lives in states where cannabis is legal in one form or another. With 18 additional states planning to legalize programs for medical or adult use over the next decade, the report estimates that 96% of Americans could be living in legal cannabis markets by 2030, dramatically expanding the legal industry and reducing the stigma associated with consumption.

However, “although legalization may improve the quality and availability of cannabis products, the pervasive and deeply rooted illegal market is not a barrier for consumers in unregulated markets, and consumer behavior is normalizing quickly in all markets,” the report said.

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