Parents Are a Rising Demographic for Cannabis

Jeff Klingman

Written by Jeff Klingman

Pot use among American parents, long a taboo subject kept hidden away for fear of harsh judgement and/or potential legal repercussions, may become the subject of one of the quickest and most significant social reappraisals of the legal weed era.

Researchers in the public and private sectors are starting to track this shift with hard numbers. A 2017 survey from Yahoo News and Marist College found that 54 percent of adults who use marijuana in the United States are parents. Customer data compiled by California-based cannabis delivery app Eaze suggested that “one in five cannabis consumers are parents, and 63 percent of those parents consume cannabis daily.” Whichever figure you go by, it points to a large and growing number of American parents purchasing cannabis products.

In 2019, the issue is marked by two main factors, changing ideas on the appropriateness of pot-use while parenting and the emergence of parents as a significant demographic within the cannabis industry, who can and should be actively courted by marketers.

For (Lightly-Buzzed) Parents, the Stigma Lifts

While getting baked to the point that you lose track of whatever your kids are getting up to is still rightly frowned upon, a growing number of parents are finding the voice to advocate for the increased playfulness and connection that low doses of cannabis can provide. Non-intoxicating CBD products have also become especially popular among young parents, who see it as a risk-free stress reliever that helps them be patient and focused caregivers to their occasionally difficult offspring. And then there are the normalizing effects of kids who’ve grown up in households where their parents used medicinal cannabis to treat any number of major or minor illnesses.

Of course, not everyone sees the light. A study of Californian parents released just last week suggests that, despite the laid-back and patiently attentive image modern pot-loving parents have been trying to project, weed-smoking parents proved quicker to discipline their kids than those who didn’t partake. In surveys of just over 3,000 participants, the study found most cannabis-using parents tend to also drink alcohol in tandem, and those that ingested any kind of substance were harsher disciplinarians. But with funding from a group called National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and a slightly judgy takeaway from study lead Bridget Freisthler supposing that, “It may be that parents who use marijuana or alcohol don't want their children to spoil the buzz they have, or bother them when they have a hangover,” these results might necessitate a big grain of salt. (“We can't tell from this study,” Freisthler also admits.)

If nothing else, it is proof that old attitudes around parenting and pot won’t just evaporate overnight, even if the industry evolves to meet new demand among diverse demographics.

Selling to, and Buying for, Mom and Dad

Cannabis companies and canny weed influencers are starting to cater directly to an older demo with needs other than total annihilation. Companies like Colorado’s Mother & Clone sell low-dose sublingual cannabis and market it to mothers as an instant, non-debilitating product that can be taken discretely by mothers on the go. Comedian Chelsea Handler, a noted and evangelical stoner, has developed a cannabis line with California’s NorCal that’s oriented towards older women, mothers and grandmothers included, who are looking to dabble in low-dose vapes and edibles. “I wanted to take my experience and create something specifically for women who have either never tried it before, or who had a bad experience 20 years ago,” said Handler.

Media guides aimed at gift-giving suggestions for weed-loving moms and dads have become prevalent, even in mainstream outlets. There are some concrete signs that the parents’ gift market is already booming. Weed industry analytics firm Headset tracked an increase in sales across categories in the cannabis market ties to both Mother’s and Father’s Day in 2019. As sales numbers weren’t specifically screened for shoppers’ distinct holiday intent, some inferences were necessary. Given traditionally popular gift types, a 35 percent increase in cannabis bath salts, soaks, and scrubs probably does suggest moms in mind. And an 80% increase in mocktails, resins, and cannabis cigars combined over the Father’s Day weekend probably means more dads then usual getting lit after their kids’ lights out.

Headset also flags the fact that many more members of the demographically enormous Gen Z populace will be reaching legal age for recreational weed in 2020, which might create a new dynamic for normalization of cannabis within family units. Will shifting norms create a generation of parents who feel comfortable sharing a joint with their kids in the same way their parents might have tipped a glass of wine to mark their own 21st birthday?

If these new behaviors take hold, the cannabis industry should take notice.

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