America's newest generation is growing up in a marijuana environment that is unlike anything ever seen in the U.S.
Generation Z has never experienced an era where marijuana was looked upon as a "scourge", or the source of extreme political ire - instead, they have only known an era where cannabis is being relentlessly pushed toward acceptance and legality. In fact, California voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, just one year before the eldest Generation Z consumers were born, according to Bloomberg.
Anna Duckworth, co-founder and chief content officer of Miss Grass, an online cannabis accessories shop and publication based in Los Angeles said:
“They’re growing up in a world where cannabis is completely normal. Everybody will know how to roll a joint and there won’t be any shame talking about it.”
Marijuana is already a big industry in the U.S. Sales have passed $10 billion as regulations have been rolled back and the industry only looks to be getting bigger. In fact, Generation Z consumers are twice as likely to use cannabis than they are to earn a steady paycheck. The generation looks poised to be chock full of marijuana consumers who will eventually embrace pot to unwind or treat ailments like insomnia and anxiety.
Bloomberg spoke to 21-year-old student Baruch Levin at UCLA, who said he waited until he was 18 to try smoking pot, worried about his father's warnings that it would "make him dumb". And when Gen Z wants to get high, there's an app for that. Before 2018's legalization, he had a friend who would get it for him using a medical card, but now he buys it for himself through the "Eaze" delivery app.
He says that there's still some stigma attached to talking about marijuana use. “I think it will take one more generation. We grew up with the stigma from our parents,” he said.
The legal age to buy pot is typically 21, which means that only the top end of Gen Z (ages 7-22) are already part of the legal weed economy. But as each year passes, more consumers will be able to spark one up. Last year, Gen Z consumers accounted for more than 1% of marijuana sales in the legal market. But by 4/20 this year, at least three times more will be able to participate in the holiday.
And corporations are taking notice. In addition to widespread firms in Canada, where pot is now legal, there are also some multi-state operators in the U.S. that are among the most valuable pot companies in the world. Companies in the U.S. are "opening stores and cultivation facilities across the country in a race to develop national weed brands."
Food and beverage companies like Coca-Cola and Conagra are also studying the industry, trying to find ways to market to Gen Z and include CBD, a compound that doesn't have the psychoactive effects of marijuana with THC.
And it isn't just Gen Z that’s embracing cannabis. In the last 2 decades, the percentage of Americans who support legalization has doubled - more than 60% now have access to some form of legal weed. Medical programs have even sprung up in conservative states like Utah and Oklahoma. Industry observers cite the ongoing conversation about the medical benefits of pot as a turning point for public perceptions of it. But just 7% of Baby Boomers use marijuana, a survey by Bloomberg and Morning Consult said.
Duckworth, of Miss Grass, often takes business meetings at a local dog park where she can spark a joint. She looks at it the same way she looks at meeting a client for a drink. That perception is going to continue to shape the industry, especially as younger Americans fall out of love with alcohol, and in love with cannabis. In fact, back in January, we highlighted how Americans were boozing less, forcing alcohol companies to scramble for booze alternatives.
According to John Dick, who runs the data and polling firm CivicScience, Americans are becoming more introverted, which fits well with embracing the cannabis lifestyle. Dick's polling found "a strong correlation between Americans who had reported using CBD, the hemp-derived compound that doesn’t get you high, and survey respondents who said they would prefer to watch a movie at home, rather than go to the theater."
He commented: “We’re realizing that deep down we’re introverts. You don’t need rocket science to figure out how that’s going to change things.”
Bethany Gomez, managing director of Brightfield Group, a cannabis research firm said: “It’s becoming much more palatable. It’s not crazy to think the usage rate could eventually be similar to alcohol.”
Angelica Bishop is a UCLA transfer student with a part-time job at a law firm and a 3.9 GPA who grew up in California. She is 23 and on the cusp of the Gen Z demographic. She says she gets high before philosophy class because pot helps her “think about things like existentialism without barriers.”
She concluded: “When it comes to alcohol I’m really turned off. If you drink too much you end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. If I smoke too much, I sleep really well.”