The Issues Cannabis Consumers Care About

By Dr. Molly McCann, Ed.D., Director of Industry Analytics, New Frontier Data

Having touched on some of the political identities and voting intentions among cannabis consumers participating in this week’s elections, it seems worthwhile to take a more nuanced look at American cannabis consumers’ political preferences and the issues that determine how they vote.

Cannabis Consumers’ Party Preferences 

In broad strokes, American cannabis consumers are more likely than the general U.S. population to be registered as Democrats (43% vs. 30%), and roughly equally likely to be so as Republicans (26% vs. 29%)[i]. But cannabis consumers represent a wide variety of Americans, and more significant differences in political preference can be seen when comparing subgroups of consumers, as profiled in New Frontier Data’s new 2020-2021 consumer survey.

Both the youngest (ages 18-34) and oldest (ages 55+) consumers were more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, and by significant margins (26% and 18%, respectively). Consumers aged 35-54 were only slightly more likely (6%) to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, and were the only age group with more Republicans than independents or members of third parties. Female consumers were also much more likely (27%) to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, with males leaning Democrat by a much narrower margin (6%).

Key Political Issues for Cannabis Consumers

Cannabis legalization is an issue of importance among consumers; 43% deemed cannabis policy as “extremely” or “very important” in their decision to choose which political candidates to support. Among consumers under 55 years, the proportion rises to 50%. Seven in 10 consumers report favoring full legalization, and 2 in 10 prefer decriminalization.

The economy, healthcare, and the COVID-19 pandemic rank among the most important deciding issues for cannabis consumers this election cycle, with more than two-thirds of consumers (68%) naming one of the three as their most important issue, and more than 3 in 5 consumers naming each among their top five issues.

Only 3% of consumers cited cannabis legalization as their most important issue, but more than one-third (36%) ranked it among their top five issues, making cannabis legalization policy more relevant to their voting decisions than either immigration, taxes, or education.

Consumers in states with legal adult-use cannabis (and to a lesser extent, with legal medical programs) understandably place less relative importance on cannabis legalization, as it affects them less directly. Thus, cannabis legalization was the issue that saw the greatest difference in relative importance to consumers across different types of state cannabis markets.

In adult-use states, 25% of consumers listed cannabis legalization among their top five issues, ranking it more highly than only two of 13 issues. However, in states without legalized high-THC cannabis, nearly half (46%) of consumers ranked it among their five most important issues, making cannabis legalization the fourth most important issue overall in illicit states after healthcare, the economy, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more coverage of cannabis consumers’ political and policy beliefs, download the 2020 U.S. Election Special Report. For reporting regarding election outcomes, policy impacts, and detailed breakdowns of each state’s ballot initiatives, visit New Frontier Data’s 2020 Election Coverage.

[1] General population political party polling from Gallup, Aug. 31- Sept. 13, 2020.