Millennials and Marijuana

According to the Pew Research Center 69 percent of Millennials favor the legalization of marijuana1 far out-pacing Gen Xers and Boomers but that is not the most significant way Millennials stand out. As we have stressed many times before, Millennials are one with technology. If you want to reach them your best method is via their mobile / smart phone. Millennials view this equipment as essential to their existence. Millennials access text and email, manage social networks, surf the internet, and watch tv on their phones and nearly all (96 percent) of them have mobile phones.2 Millennials are more likely to accept a trusted friend’s recommendation or advice than a stranger, company, or institution (though they have a favorable view of business) and they are less divided by gender and race than any generation preceding them.

The most educated generation

Though a recent Gallup poll shows “relatively little increase throughout the past three decades in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana”3 recreational shopkeepers have a sophisticated, knowledgeable customer demographic in their base of adult Millennials. Though the Pew Researchers probably never intended anyone to make a connection between education and marijuana marketing, according to their numbers Millennials are “the best-educated cohort of young adults in American history” a third of older Millennials hold four-year degrees.4 In contrast to the Baby Boomers who just want to get high, Millennials want to know where and how their weed is raised. They are already brand-aware and know what brands they like. They know the various methods for taking in marijuana and derived products and what works best for their particular needs. They are demanding customers who expect experience beyond mere service. Since reaching pot-smoking ages, Millennials have had access to carefully developed strains, hydroponically grown plants, and have been educated in subtle differences like leaf length, flower size, and the effects of northern cool climate growth versus southern dry environs.

Hard to count, but big

According to the same Gallup poll 14 percent of Millennials aged 19 to 29 report they are current marijuana users compared to 7 percent of the 30-49 age group. If you contrast 14 percent of Millennials against 7 percent of Gen Xers the raw number of users increases given the population of the two groups. Granted, these numbers are difficult to pinpoint as Gallup and Pew and the Census don’t align their age ranges nonetheless there is agreement that the Millennial generation is the largest which, according to one researcher outnumbers the Boomers by 13.7 million.5 According to Pew the adult Millennial population is still fewer than Boomers (27 vs 32 percent of the adult population) but this is shifting every day. In the summer of 2004, the first Millennial college graduates entered the workforce. They will continue to infiltrate in large numbers until approximately 2022.6 The message being that your current and coming customer base is and will be largely made up of Millennials.

Broke but optimistic

Millennials carry high levels of student loan debt, and are experiencing greater incidence of “poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycle.”7 Yet they remain optimistic. Though fewer identify as middle class than they did just six years ago. they believe that even though they aren’t making enough money now they will in the future. As most who have attended college can attest, the financial realities really kick in after graduation so if you are looking to build brand loyalty a key demographic will be college-attending, generally the ages of 21-25.

The most diverse generation

Preferences seem to stem from geographic influences rather than being socially based. In other words whether your customer smokes splifs, joints, or blunts, uses a bong or a piece, prefers vapor or hash oil may come down to geography more than social indicators including race, occupation, education, income, and wealth. Utilize CRM software or be sure to input this important information into your existing customer database to help you better understand your Millennial customers’ preferences.

Don’t worry, it will be OK

Our research shows that many cannabis shopkeepers are female Gen Xers. While the Gen X generation doesn’t seem to dislike Millennials with the passion that Boomers do there can be the feeling that just as this huge unmovable cohort ahead of them is starting to die off a giant pack of locust is coming up behind. These digital babies who were born carrying MacBooks and iPhones can be hard to love. These young upstarts are overly confident, feel entitled, are unenthusiastic about working for things, and are too tied to their iPads, their mommies, and their free-time. But Millennials are altruistic, family- oriented, motivated to succeed, concerned with making money and just like Gen Xers are independent, self-reliant, tech-savvy global thinkers who value balance, fun, and informality so if you look beyond the dizzying technology and the t-shirts, you may find Millennials aren’t the aliens they appear to be and they will become your most true and loyal customers.

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5 Robert Kreitner, Organizational Behavior, McGraw-Hill (2012)

6 Hershatter, Andrea, and Molly Epstein. “Millennials and the World of Work: An Organization and Management Perspective.” Journal of Business and Psychology 25.2 (2010): 211-23.