Understanding Potential CBD Users; Drivers to Adoption


(Click here to download a copy of The CBD Consumer Experience report referenced below.)

Ample data is available on the public’s overall perspective – including users and non-users – toward cannabis. Not much can be found on those interested in cannabis (for adult use or medical purposes) who have yet to try any cannabis products at all. In this case, we sought out feedback from potential users. Specifically, we looked to fill a gap in understanding drivers to adoption for CBD. As access expands – recent developments in Maine, Ohio, and New York notwithstanding – new users represent much of the growth for CBD products. Having delved into the perspective of dispensary shoppers and patients in 2018, we entered the New Year dedicated to uncovering actionable insights on a micro level. Understanding how and why consumers may feel more comfortable experiencing CBD presented a clear opportunity. The following represents an excerpt of our findings in The CBD Consumer Experience.

What are potential users seeking?

For purposes of discussion, the following data combines two groups: first, people who are interested in trying CBD yet have no firsthand experience and second, those with much less knowledge of CBD yet open to discovering more.


We asked 500 non-users in the US to select from a list of potential drivers to adoption. The chart above summarizes most of the responses. (Some results have been excluded to conserve space.) Not surprisingly “lower prices” rose to the top. Prices are complex as taxes and other fees imposed on business owners contribute to the final purchase price, an issue consumers may not perceive. Further, price is nearly always a deterrent to trialing new products. Let’s set aside that result for now to focus on factors that can be addressed directly with the consumer. Other factors are equally important – for example, understanding interactions with other medications – but tie back to resources such as test results that are not yet available due to the longstanding prohibition and legal grey area of CBD.

What can be addressed directly?

Granted, regulatory restraints and other bugaboos handcuff how, where, and what can be communicated publicly. Having recognized that, some asks and unmet consumer needs can be addressed more or less directly:

  • Regulation: potential consumers likely don’t have a grasp on the regulations in place for product sold through licensed dispensaries or the proactive efforts by the industry. The certification seals recently launched by the US Hemp Authority are a strong example of the latter.

  • Brand recognition: the halo effect in cannabis is far less pronounced than in other categories – broadly speaking – of consumer goods. There are as yet no equivalent to the national brands in OTC, for example. However numerous long-standing conscientious companies have been operating in the space for years. Even many of those expanding into a CBD-only processing or cultivation have an opportunity to stress the company’s history of working with cannabis consumers.

  • Providers: intermediaries need to understand the possibilities and realities of CBD as well. While efforts are underway to reach health care providers, too many harbor legacy distrust of “marijuana”. (Sentiments such as those captured in the quotes by physicians in a recent New York Times article are not uncommon.) The more that can responsibly be done here the better.

  • Job safety: employers may be waiting on the sidelines but as court rulings distinguishing CBD from “intoxicants” pile up and as drug testing solutions realign, arming employees and applicants with information should facilitate constructive conversations.

Lastly, the desire for easier access – perhaps best interpreted as a mix of desiring widespread availability, greater convenience, and an unstated degree of comfort stemming from seeing CBD in familiar environs – can’t be understated. With the FDA having announced public hearings on CBD in April, data such as this should be surfaced. Before experiencing the benefits of CBD, a significant number of US consumers are seeking reassurance that CBD products are safe, widely available, and clearly defined as legal.


Questions? Comments? Contact me directly via mike@highyieldinsights.com

Photo by Stefan Rodriguez on Unsplash

(This post originally appeared on Cannabis Business Executive.)

Mike Luce