Food & Bev

40% of Americans have purchased a cannabis product: survey

Retail Brew teamed up with Harris Poll to see if people are embracing cannabis as shoppers. Turns out, it’s hit or miss.
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· 3 min read

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As we’ve been reporting on all things cannabis this month, we found ourselves curious about some big questions: Are people embracing it as shoppers, particularly as legalization efforts ramp up? And if so, how—and what—are they buying?

To find out, Retail Brew teamed up with Harris Poll, which ran a nationally representative survey of 2,097 adults over the weekend. Turns out, cannabis is hit or miss.

We match: First, some perspective. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) believe that recreational cannabis should be federally legalized.

  • That number jumped up to 79% and 76% for millennials and Gen X, respectively, while less than half (48%) of Boomers were in favor.
  • The support for legalizing medical cannabis, though, was a slam dunk, at 84%. (The lowest level of backing came from Gen Z, at 77%.)


Here’s where things start to split.

Only 40% of those surveyed said they’ve ever bought a cannabis product, and just a third had ever visited a dispensary for recreational reasons, with the overwhelming majority doing so for the first time prior to the pandemic (81%). Still, 31% said they’ve upped their recreational use throughout Covid.

  • A quarter are purchasing recreational products several times a week.
  • Legal cannabis sales in the US were a record $17.5 billion in 2020, per a BDSA report in May.

The good news, for cannabis stores at least, is that that’s where most people (54%) are doing their shopping. (Thirty-seven percent still know “a guy” that gets them their goods.) And even if other avenues, like online marketplaces, open up to cannabis products, half of respondents would still prefer to buy from a dispensary.

Side note: Foot traffic data from, provided to Retail Brew, found that visits to Curaleaf’s shops surged more than 100% from 2019 to 2021 each month (except in August, when they increased 92%). MedMen’s stores also saw a bump, with monthly visits up an average 39.5% over the same time frame.

  • “An increasingly friendly regulatory environment alongside a greater focus on health and wellness will likely position these brands to thrive in the near and longer term,” ​​Ethan Chernofsky, VP of marketing at, said via email.

Also working in cannabis’s favor is that of the shoppers who’ve splurged on recreational cannabis, more than a third (34%) expect to shell out $200+ on products over the next year—including 39% of Gen Zers.

  • The most popular recreational products are flowers and gummies (64%), followed by edibles/drinks (60%).

But, but, but: For all the opportunities out there, it will be tough to change minds that are already made up. Among those who have never purchased a cannabis product, only 29% are more open to buying or trying it as more states move to legalize. Thirty-four percent straight up said “never.”—GT

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