Can Marketers Get Around Marijuana's Stigma?

July 29, 2019 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

Last month, Illinois became the 11th state to allow the adult use of recreational marijuana and the first state legislature to legalize selling it. The legal distribution of marijuana at the state level has prompted many blue-chip companies to explore cannabis-based products.

So, who are the early players?One of the larger companies betting on the future growth of marijuana is Constellation Brands, which has invested heavily in the Canadian marijuana company, Canopy. Entering the cannabis market has the potential to cannibalize the sales of Constellation’s core business of making and selling alcohol, wine, and spirits, however. But the brand sees cannabis as a risk worth taking, as do other well-known brands.

Consumer Sentiment

While the growth potential of the cannabis market has CPG brands seeing green, a recent nationwide survey measuring consumer sentiment and demand for cannabis-related products shows a fragmented consumer base not entirely sold on cannabis but not dead-set against it, either. For marketers, closing the gap is essential to overcome the sticking points hindering consumer buy-in.

Total Market Size

The size of the recreational marijuana/cannabis market is both encouraging and disappointing for cannabis companies. While almost 20% of the total market uses cannabis, over 80% do not.

Data suggests that most people across all ethnicities are against using recreational marijuana/cannabis themselves -- but don’t mind if others do, or are completely opposed to it. Asians are the most likely to hold this view, which alludes to cultural biases that marketers should be aware of and know how to navigate around.

Key Barriers

Among consumers opposed to using marijuana/cannabis but not drinking alcohol, marijuana’s illegal drug status shows up as the most significant barrier to its use.

The good news is that marijuana’s legal status is subject to change. The bad news is the stigma. Marijuana is heavily perceived as a drug by 35% of the population. Changing the mindset of older generations will require marketing tactics that persuade and inform in a way that is socially responsible.

As more states legalize marijuana across the U.S., the fight for market share will heat up among established brands. However, awareness of cannabis product brands is still relatively low, with only a handful of cannabis brands at or near 20% awareness among users.

Long Road Ahead

While there is a lot of buzz around recreational marijuana use, intermittent legalization is a tremendous barrier to widespread acceptance, which presents challenges for marketers.

There is hope for the cannabis industry, however -- especially with younger generations who weren’t necessarily raised with the same stigma surrounding marijuana as older generations.

This blog post was originally published on Engage: Hispanics