Like most industries, the cannabis industry was not immune to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, cannabis was uniquely affected by the pandemic — possibly coming out stronger than before.
Let's take a look at the industry and consumer trends that dominated 2020, then continued to shape 2021 and beyond.
During a year of incredible stress, hardship, and social upheaval, millions of people turned to cannabis to cope.
Reasons ranged from self-care, mental wellness, medicinal purposes, and recreation. It's clear that since the pandemic, cannabis sales have skyrocketed.
March 2020 saw a massive spike in sales. People flocked to dispensaries to stockpile goods to meet their cannabis needs.
In the legal marijuana states, dispensaries were defined as essential businesses. With dispensaries allowed to remain operational during lockdowns, these states saw major increases in cannabis sales.
The hemp side of the cannabis world did not fare as well at the beginning. CBD markets took a downturn as many in-person shops closed. However, those who were quickly able to shift to an ecommerce model saw the greatest success.
In general, the pandemic boosted consumption. Many new customers tried cannabis products for the first time. Those already using cannabis increased their use. And it doesn’t look like consumers are relenting.
Some of the biggest factors that continue to influence cannabis consumers are:(1)
During the pandemic, people tended to buy larger packages. Customers spent 33% more on each order in 2020.(2) It seems like the pandemic encouraged bulk purchasing of cannabis (and TP, bottled water, bleach wipes, and anything else not nailed down at the local big box store….).
Another consumer shift triggered during the pandemic was a desire for lower-cost options. Possibly linked to high unemployment rates from pandemic uncertainty, price became a key focus for consumers.
Customers continue to be motivated by value-driven shopping — getting the most bang for their cannibuck.(1)
44% of folks said they used cannabis "a lot more" during the pandemic. And 55% of people surveyed said they plan to consume the same amount of cannabis after the pandemic ends.(1)
These stats align with the increases in sales that seem to be holding strong across the industry.
2020 saw a boom of cannabis sales, but 2021 saw another increase. Cannabis sales went up 41% in 2021.(3) Still more people are flocking to cannabis.
After the initial market woes, the CBD industry also seems to be looking up and better than ever, with a 15% growth in sales in 2021.(4) Indeed, 9 million Americans tried CBD for the first time because of the pandemic.(5)
Online shopping is another trend that won’t disappear. Even as pandemic restrictions lift, consumers continue to want the added benefits of ecommerce. As of 2021, online sales made up 38% of the total CBD market.(4)
This is particularly true for new customers who were exposed to the benefits and ease of online shopping for the first time during the pandemic. Consumers are bound to continue seeking the reliable, consistent, and convenient online shopping experience.
In the US, the cannabis industry may be one of the very few industries that's coming out stronger after the pandemic.
Over 77,000 jobs were created in 2020, bringing the total number up to 321,000.(2)
Many new products continue to emerge and set the bar higher across the marijuana and hemp industries.
The hemp-derived CBD industry faced greater disruptions at first. But now, it continues to grow as more consumers discover new products and enter the market.
Many in the cannabis industry turned to online shopping models to promote sales amid the pandemic. Cannabis retailers incorporated Covid-safe options like curbside pickup and delivery.
Many cannabis and hemp retailers pivoted entirely into the ecommerce industry — and intend to stay that way.
As consumers have come to expect these convenient shopping methods, we can expect the industry to continue to grow online.
2020 was a year when many states had cannabis legislation on the ballot. However, for many states, decisions were put on pause to allow for social distancing. And legislation shifted to the pressing pandemic issues.(7)
Since then, legalization efforts have picked up. For instance, though marijuana legalization was stalled in New York in 2020, it was finally legalized in 2021.
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts to the industry was the declaration of cannabis as an essential business.
As many businesses went into lockdown, states with legal marijuana opted to keep cannabis businesses open, calling them essential.
Dispensaries recognized as "essential" businesses throughout the pandemic may signal a shift in public opinion about cannabis.
Cannabis, and cannabis-derived products seem to be moving into the public eye as a more mainstream industry. And shifting from a stigmatized substance to a health and wellness product.
The cannabis industry saw many changes through the course of the pandemic.
The cannabis industry is one of the few industries that has come out stronger after the Covid pandemic. More than 77,000 jobs were created in 2020 alone for this budding industry.
Another thing we can expect is an increase in the variety of new and unique products — catered to an increasingly cannabis-curious population.
The pandemic altered the industry. And one thing is certain: Cannabis consumption is not going away.
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