What Women Want From Their Weed

August 5, 2017

Until recently, the marijuana industry has largely been geared towards men, with many marijuana publications and product labels featuring scantily clad women.  This is not totally unreasonable considering that according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health, in most states less than one third of all heavy and moderate marijuana users are women.  However, women make up 43% of occasional cannabis users, and these numbers are on the rise too, up from less than 9% in 2012 and are expected to continue growing as legalization marches on and the social stigma surrounding cannabis wanes.   As such, savvy cannabusinesses are getting wise to the fact that women are an underserved market and looking to develop products and business strategies that cater to the ladies. 

So far, dispensaries and recreational shops are not doing great job of winning over the female market.  In many of the largest markets in the country, including California and Colorado, women who are qualified to purchase through legal channels are still disproportionately turning to the black market or relying on friends to supply their cannabis. 

To find out more about what these ladies are looking for, Brightfield Group surveyed more than 500 medical patients in states with legal medical markets or adult consumers in recreational states

Women get their marijuana for free

More than one in four female cannabis users report receiving their cannabis for free from a friend or family member, more than twice the rate for men.  It is not entirely surprising then, that women are extremely price sensitive, with nearly one in three women identifying price as their top concern when choosing a dispensary, compared with one in four men.  This also means that they are going to need some excellent pricing or other attractive incentives to start purchasing through the legal market. 

Lab-tested cannabis is extremely important to many women and despite being price conscious, they are willing to pay significantly more for marijuana that has undergone testing.  Nearly all women reported a willingness to pay more, and more than half are willing to pay more than 50% more for products that have undergone testing. 

Women have largely the same product preferences as men, though they demonstrate a slight preference for non-smokeables (most notably edibles and topicals) compared with men. This is consistent with the fact that fewer women also smoke cigarettes than men; as non-smokeable forms of cannabis become more widely available, women are expected to shift in higher numbers to edibles and topicals.    Edibles are of particular interest as they are exploding with popularity nationwide and the manufacturing of edibles is one of the most promising points of entry for entrepreneurs looking to enter the cannabis industry. Topicals are also notable as in states with legal markets there is a growing portfolio of cannabis infused skin and bath products that are primarily popular amongst women. 

Women are loyal when they find a favorite brand of edibles.  

Nearly 2/3 of women report buying their favorite brand at least 75% of the time, compared with 57% of men. 

Women are very selective when choosing their edibles, and take a variety of factors very seriously including taste, specific effects, strain and discretion of use.  However, women are most likely to select their favorite brand of edibles based on the specific product type (ie. drinks, chocolates or cookies) with 62% of women identifying this as a top priority, compared with only 38% of men. The same is true for women who use concentrates – while they don’t have large differences than men in which product types they prefer, women are most likely to select based on a specific product type, which is just as important as dosage and price.   In general, they are not very interested in CBD content, packaging or brand reputation of their products. 


So what specific products do women want?     

Surprisingly, chocolate is not at the top of the list.  Their top product, as with men, is overwhelmingly baked goods, but they also have a taste for infused sugar candies, followed by chocolates and drinks.  Drinks are nearly five times more popular amongst women than men, and savory snacks are much less attractive to women than men. 

With increasing competition in the cannabis market, it will be more and more vital for businesses to design products and marketing strategies focused on capturing the female market.   Ladies can be a tricky market to capture, as many of them are accustomed to getting their marijuana for free.  There will be several crucial moves that will allow manufacturers and dispensary owners to successfully market to women:

Develop lab-tested, organic products

This is a selling point for the legal market, as women are looking for a safe and reliable experience

Price your products carefully

Women are highly price sensitive and are unwilling to splurge too much on premium cannabis products.  As they are used to getting free cannabis, they will respond well to deals that offer free edibles to new customers or a free gift for those who spend more than a certain amount.  

Ensure your brand stands out in its category

Most women who don’t already have a favorite brand enter a dispensary wanting a specific type of product, so make sure that your brand stands out against others in the same category.  If she wants a lollipop and you sell beef jerky, she won’t give you a second look.  But if your lollipop stands out in terms of price, quality of ingredients and packaging you may have just converted a new loyal customer.