Cannabis Consumption and Perceptions Vary Regionally in Europe

By Noah Tomares, Research Analyst, New Frontier Data

Cannabis has a long and tortuous history in Europe. Inconsistent regulations, dissimilar social attitudes, and numerous bureaucratic hurdles have hampered its widespread appeal and availability throughout European markets. The fallout has led to some fracturing among cannabis consumers’ behavior and perceptions.

Fewer than 4 in 10 (38%) among Europeans claim to have consumed cannabis at least once or twice, though averages fluctuate considerably across regions. In The EU CBD Consumer Report: 2019 Overview, New Frontier Data outlines eight distinct regions intended to contrast individual yet clustered countries or with similar markets. The regions respectively include: France; Germany; Italy;  Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (Benelux); Spain and Portugal (Sp/Port); Sweden and Denmark (Swe/Den); Switzerland & Austria (Ch/Aus); United Kingdom and Ireland (UK/Ire).

Cannabis consumption rates vary considerably across markets. More than half (54%) of respondents from the Switzerland & Austria claimed to have consumed cannabis, while among Germans — in a country with a relatively nascent medical market—fewer than 3 in 10 (29%) said likewise. Of the included regions, France was the least likely for reported cannabis consumption, as nearly a quarter of its residents 24%) claimed to have consumed cannabis.

In addition to having Europe’s lowest reported rate for regional consumption, French respondents expressed the lowest overall impression of cannabis, with more than half (57%) stating a negative opinion about cannabis. Regions with higher rates of consumption were associated with more positive outlooks. Europeans from Benelux shared the best impressions about cannabis, with more than 1 in 3 (37%) espousing positive opinions. Overall, 1 among 4 (25%) of Europeans regarded cannabis positively.

Generally, opinions seem to be shaped by prior consumption. Among those reporting never having consumed cannabis, about1 in 10 (11%) held a positive view about it. Conversely, those who had consumed cannabis more frequently were much more likely (62%) to favor it than were those having tried cannabis either once or twice (39%).

Among previous consumers, about 2 in 10 (21%) planned to consume cannabis again. Another 35% reported that they would consume again if presented with the opportunity, but that they did not plan to do so. Less than half (45%) expected not to consume cannabis again.

Consumers from Benelux were likeliest to plan future consumption (31%), while more than half among respondents both from Germany (55%) and Italy (51%) expected not to do so.

Cannabis may represent a new potential source of revenue and employment for countries aiming economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the disparate rates of consumption and ranges of opinions, those seeking to enter the European cannabis market should be acutely aware of the regional challenges to be encountered. Regulatory hurdles can hamper broader consumer awareness, and thus limit adoption of their products. While long-term market growth will likely be dependent on policy changes, by targeting markets with more active consumer bases, the industry may find greater short-term success.

For a deeper analytical dive into the regions mentioned within Europe’s CBD market, the report is available here.