Consumers See Cannabis Products Playing a Role in Managing Health
CHICAGO — Continued legalization of cannabis in the United states could increase its appeal for managing adults' health, especially due to its connection to wellness, according to new research from Mintel.
The appeal of both cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) is linked to their perceived health benefits, with U.S. adults reporting relaxation (67 percent), stress relief (60 percent) and improved sleep (50 percent) as the leading reasons for use in any format. In states where recreational cannabis is legal, 61 percent of cannabis users report at least some focus on health as a driver for their use.
Additionally, in states where recreational cannabis is legal, consumer usage of over-the-counter (OTC) medication is lower compared to states that require a medical card to purchase cannabis. In the past three months, 52 percent of consumers living in states where recreational consumption is legal have used OTC medication vs. 62 percent of consumers who live in medical-only states.
"Recreational and medical cannabis usage is currently inhibited by numerous factors, but as awareness, interest and legalization grow, so will cannabis' role in managing common ailments and mental health conditions, impacting mainstream OTC health products," said Andrea Wroble, health and wellness analyst for Mintel. "The recognition of cannabis' medicinal benefits is positively influencing consumer perceptions, allowing the cannabis industry to shift from being viewed as an illicit drug to a viable treatment option for health management."
Cannabis also provides options for the 44 percent of consumers who experienced a mental health condition in the past year. While there are few OTC options for treating stress or anxiety, consumers are more willing to consider cannabis over traditional OTC medications for mental health conditions, Mintel found. In medical-only states, 41 percent say they would consider treating or managing any mental health condition with cannabis, while 39 percent would consider CBD-only products.
Sleep is another avenue for cannabis sales, as 68 percent of consumers report struggling to fall or stay asleep and 42 percent say that OTC sleep aids are not a healthy method of falling asleep. More than half of consumers (56 percent) in recreationally legal states and 58 percent of those in medical-only states say they would use cannabis instead of OTC sleep aids to help them fall asleep.
"Compared to states where cannabis is only legal for medical use, adults in recreationally legal states have easier access to cannabis as a treatment option, shifting reliance away from OTC products to manage symptoms from stress, anxiety or burnout to assisting with falling or staying asleep," Wroble said. "Our research also shows that in medical-only states and recreationally legal states, consumers say OTC medications cause unwanted side effects, further positioning the plant as a natural alternative for everyday treatment."
Although there is substantial interest, more education is needed to substantiate cannabis is a medical treatment option, according to Mintel. Nineteen percent of consumers in recreationally legal states and 22 percent in medical-only states say they don't know much about cannabis.
Education should start with credible resources, such as industry or health professionals, as 42 percent of adults in medically legal states and 37 percent of adults in recreationally legal states say that a medical professional's recommendation would enhance their consideration of cannabis as a medical treatment. At the same time, Mintel found that just 9 percent of consumers in both types of states have talked about cannabis with a doctor or pharmacist.
"There is a significant information gap in the cannabis industry. Consumers see the plant's potential in health and wellness but are relying on word-of-mouth to educate themselves and guide their decision-making process because they are unsure of where to turn for expert advice. To mitigate confusion, the cannabis market must establish a network of trustworthy professional resources for consumers to learn from," Wroble said.
"Consumers who use cannabis for both health and recreational reasons comprise the majority of the cannabis user base in the US; as such, brands focusing on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing as primary purchase drivers will gain mainstream appeal. Establishing clinical evidence and safe usage practices will be crucial to legitimizing cannabis and moving the needle as an accessible treatment solution," she concluded.