Marijuana data and analytics specialist Headset released its latest report comparing U.S. medical and recreational marijuana market development bearing results that show industry-wide unifying trends and sales patterns. Information in the report is grounded by a predominant pattern of a three-step operation in marijuana market development, which includes medical access, prohibition, and recreational (adult-use) legalization. While there are sometimes exceptions and markets jump straight from full-on prohibition to full-on adult-use legalization, flagship states like California, which approved medical use in 1996 but took another two decades to allow recreational-use marijuana, follow a more predictable pattern.
The report compares California’s slower rollout to Illinois’ accelerated process, evident in its shorter six-year span between medical and recreational legalization. The impact of recreational-use legalization on the medical market is less predictable and more state-specific. While Illinois’ medical use sales initially held steady once adult-use legalization passed, Michigan observed “75% growth in medical sales between January 2020 and July 2021.”
However, the proportion of total marijuana sales to medical patients in Michigan has steadily declined since the introduction of the adult-use market, and Illinois saw a similar decline over the first quarter of the year, which resulted in an all-time low of 20.9% in July 2021. On the other hand, Colorado and Oregon, two of the most mature recreational markets in the country, offer some evidence that recreational-use legalization doesn’t negate the possibility of future medical legalization. Oregon’s medical sales have held firm between 8 – 12% since the onset of 2020 and Colorado’s have held at around 18 – 20%.
The buying behavior between recreational and medical cannabis consumers can impact the market, as well. Headset’s data shows that medical consumers tend to purchase more products at one time than recreational consumers. In the end, higher potency THC products, lower taxes, smoking accessories, more knowledgeable staff, and sales experience give the medical use market not just an edge but also give patients more reason to buy in larger quantities. With this much of an edge, it makes sense as to why the research is showing that medical marijuana users are spending more on cannabis than their recreational counterparts.