Flower is indeed still king, and new research proves it. The paper, which researchers say is “one of the most comprehensive assessments of cannabis consumption at the population level in Canada and the U.S. to date,” examines trends in cannabis consumption patterns in Canada and the United States between 2018 and 2020, with authors recognizing the “rapidly diversified” market in both countries since the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis.
Of course, consumption methods may solely come down to what a user prefers, however, as authors note in the abstract, “… mode of administration has important implications for cannabis potency, pharmacokinetic effects, and consumer patterns of use.”
This study looked at the use of different cannabis products in population-based surveys in Canada and the U.S., examining changes over time in the prevalence of use of different cannabis products, along with frequency of use and consumption amongst each product type.
Respondents aged 16 to 65 years were recruited from commercial panels in Canada and the U.S. in states with and without a legal, adult-use cannabis market. Researchers collected data on frequency and consumption amounts for nine types of cannabis products, including dried flower, oils and concentrates, edibles and more. Consumers were also asked about habits around mixing cannabis and tobacco, and researchers collected sociodemographic information to examine any correlates of consumption.
Findings were consistent with previous surveys, ultimately noting that flower still reigns supreme among consumers, regardless of whether those consumers took part in a legal or illegal cannabis marketplace. However, researchers noted the popularity of other formations of cannabis, especially in markets with the option to legally purchase from licensed retailers.
While dried flower was the most commonly used product, examining the past 12-month use among consumers between 2018 and 2020 showed a decline in Canada (81% to 73%), as well as the U.S. legal (78% to 72%) and illegal states (81% to 73%). When looking at prevalence of past 12-month use, researchers observed an increase for virtually all other product forms, though the prevalence of daily use remained stable throughout the observed years.
Following flower, edibles and vape oils were the most commonly used cannabis products in 2020. The use of non-flower products was also highest in U.S. legal states, though similar trends were observed in all jurisdictions covered by the study.
Men were most likely to report the use of processed products. Vape oils were the most commonly processed product among surveyed 16 to 20-year-olds, consistent with other recent research that cannabis vaping is the most popular method of cannabis consumption among U.S. adolescents.
Researchers also noted that the daily use of cannabis flower has increased in all U.S. states, whether adult-use cannabis is illegal or not, and the average joint size has also increased across all jurisdictions over time.
While it may not seem shocking that flower once again comes out on top, these findings offer some insight surrounding the road ahead. Namely, flower may not be “king” forever.
In the conclusion of their report, authors note, “The findings highlight the rapidly evolving nature of the cannabis product market, including notable shifts in the types of cannabis products used by consumers. … Although dried flower continues to dominate the market, it has begun declining with a notable shift towards increasing popularity of processed cannabis products.”
Recent data from Headset, looking at cannabis markets in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state seem to echo the same trends, according to an MJBizDaily report. According to retail sales data from the six states, cannabis sales grew from $4.92 billion in 2020 to $5.49 billion in 2021, but the flower’s overall share of the market fell.
According to Headset Senior Data Analyst Cooper Ashley, last year saw a 11.5% increase in flower sales, less than the 18% jump in overall cannabis sales. Sales of edibles, in comparison, increased from $1.14 billion to $1.37 billion over the same time period, up 20.4%. Flower was also the third-slowest-growing product category, ahead of topicals and tinctures/sublinguals.
Even though it has some other contenders to play with in the modern age, it’s unlikely flower will fall from its throne any time soon. Though, as the industry continues to rapidly grow and shift, who are we to predict the trends to come?