What Are First-Time Visitors to Dispensaries Buying?

ana hory of enlucem

In this interview, Ana Hory of Enlucem discusses the data she has collected from interviewing over 1500 customers that have visited dispensaries for the very first time. What do they buy, what gender are they, how old are they? Find out in this interview.

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Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now, here's your program.

Just a quick reminder before we get started. In this episode, me and the guests will talk a little bit about dosaging with cannabis, and this is provided just for informational purposes only. Please speak with your doctor before considering taking cannabis, how much or whether to do it at all.

We often talk about existing cannabis customers on this program, but who are the brand new customers who are trying cannabis legally for the first time and making their first dispensary purchases? We're going to find out the answer to this question in our interview today with Ana Hori from the Enlucem. Ana, welcome to CannaInsider .

Ana: Thank you.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you today?

Ana: I'm in Sunny Los Angeles, California.

Matthew: Okay, and what is Enlucem?

Ana: Enlucmn is an online community. The idea is to have a place where patients who have benefited from using cannabis to treat illness or reduce side effects with pharmaceutical meds, to share their stories so that other people who find themselves in similar situations or having similar ailments to learn from those experiences directly from other users.

Matthew: Okay. And what got you into this business? What were you doing before and what was kind of the motivation to spark this idea?

Ana: My background is in product and brand development. I have a passion for creating new products, new ideas, and the cannabis industry caught my attention a few years ago when I came across a book about the industry called "We the people". And there was the first really interaction when I learned a lot of details on how cannabis was using, was helping a lot of consumers to treat ailments, so that got my attention.

Matthew: Okay. And you've spoken with a lot of people in different geographies about their cannabis use and gathered data. Can you tell us about that?

Ana: I've conducted two quantitative studies across five largest legal cannabis states, including California, Colorado, Washington state, Oregon, and Nevada. A total of 1800 people, both users and non-users of cannabis.

Matthew: Okay, and what have been your illuminating insights or any kind of trends or things that you pop out?

Ana: One of the things that I've learned was that the first-time users are very different than current users. It's interesting because...well, there's a little small slice of the population that is still not understanding the benefits on...are concerned that since it's not legally federally, that might be a problem with it and that's like 17% of the population. Everybody else, 83% are like talk to me, they're either users or they've used in the past which is really exciting.

Matthew: Okay. So let's just kind of contrast first-time users and existing users. What, what is the real difference between the two? I imagined that existing users feel more comfortable with how much of their purchasing and things like that?

Ana: Absolutely. What we find is that the ones that use on a regular basis, are very familiar with the type of products, some benefits, they've used for many years, so cannabis is not new to them. But the ones that are newbies in this space, the first-time users, which is about 21% of consumers, they are mostly female, about 67% of them. Their age range is between...like the core is 45-65, so they're slightly older than the current users, which tend to skew a little younger. But they're curious, they want to learn more about the benefits of cannabis. It's the grandma who has arthritis and has been using opioids to treat it and doesn't like that experience. It's the mom who's overworked, keeping the house organized, the kids on their schedules and has a full-time job, but suffers from insomnia. It's also men who lead stressful lives and are looking to find ways to unwind. Or the 50-year-old who suffers from back thing and he's looking for healthier alternatives to treat it. Those are the first time enthusiastic that I learned from my studies.

Further Reading: Treating Arthritis with CBD

Matthew: Okay. So let's say I'm a dispensary owner and I'm trying to coach a budtender on how to welcome new customers differently than existing cannabis enthusiasts. What would your suggestion be if you were looking over a budtender's arm and the customer says, "I've never used cannabis before." How would you approach that person?

Ana: You know, it's really, really important for the budtender to be very knowledgeable and to listen a lot to what that patient is telling them. So I would suggest first thing, engage him or her and understand what they're looking for. Is it an ailment? How long that have they had it, have they talked to a physician, has the physician given recommendation. And then understand what comfort level they have with different types of products. Are they open to smoking? Have they smoked weed before? So for example, if smoking is a preferred format for a first-time a dispensary consumer, if it's a format that are open but they haven't smoked before, maybe a pre-roll, may be more easier for them to experience cannabis.

But chances are this first-time user also want to... When a consumer carry products that are more discreet and if they are open-minded to smoking, they'll probably want something like a vape pen because you know, the scent of cannabis is not as strong. But from my studies, they generally prefer other types of formats. Edibles and topicals first versus smoking in general. Next, it's very important that the budtender shows different types of products, explain dosage, how much should they start from? It's really important that they start with a low dose, maybe three to five milligrams of THC. So that the consumer learns what's their tolerance level to make sure that they have a good experience with the product. And lastly, they should be knowledgeable enough to answer any questions that the patient might have.

Matthew: There's kind of like an ecosystem shame to the people who have never tried cannabis before where they say, "Hey, if I pull this out in front of my friends who also have never tried before, do I look like I'm a crazy person?" So they're not going to be doing dabs with a crowd if they're a first-time cannabis user, they're not going to be doing, you know, maybe offering, you know...wax or things like this are not appropriate, because they have this, you know, they're pulling out this, this product and they, they're kind of sensitive to what their, perhaps their friends or their family or their spouse might think. Which kind of leads me to the next question. How do people...first-time users consume? Do they do that at home? Do they do it outside with a spouse, a friend, in the car at work? What have you come up with?

Ana: Absolutely, 95% of users use it at home, which is interesting, I was surprised. It's pretty consistent across all states.

Matthew: That's high.

Ana: It's really high, it's mostly something they do at home. About half the time they do it alone, half the time they do with other family members or friends. And the current users actually, even though they...half the time they're using with friends, it seemed to shrink. It seems like the using it by themselves tends to be a preferred format than with others, which was surprising to me.

Matthew: I guess they want to kind of figure out how it's going to affect their behavior before they think of their friends.

Ana: I think so, too.

Matthew: Yeah. Okay, so I can almost think of how you can position this to a new dispensary customer. You can, you know, you mentioned they're using it at home so you could say so when you get back home, whether you're using this with your spouse or your significant other, you know, and then you walk in how to use it. Like just press the vape pen, screw it in and there you go. The pre-rolls, you know, I've been looking at the data of what sells in dispensaries and the pre-rolls are just unbelievably popular and I think it's just because they're so easy, and it's taken something that used to be hard, especially if you have fumbling Mr. Maggio fingers like me, and you're trying to roll a joint and then you've got those beautiful pre-rolls that looks like, you know, Zeus or some mythical figure did it for you and it's just perfect. You're like, "Gosh, this used to be something that was hard. Now look how beautiful this is. And it's cheap." Sometimes it's given as a little bonus, too. Its like, "Hey, you bought $50 worth of stuff. You get a free pre-roll."

Now, in terms of, you know, we talked a little bit about people coming in and trying to treat a specific symptom, but is there, can you kind of break down what the biggest symptoms are kind of like if we're looking at a pie chart, why new customers are coming into dispensary's and what it is they want, like what's their desired outcome?

Ana: It's interesting that for this particular question, both current users and future users or people that are interested in using, they say that they are interested in using or use it for the exact same reasons in the same proportion. So the number one thing is to relax, that's the one thing that they're looking for. The second thing is pain relief, and it's across the board. Next, is anxiety relief and then treating insomnia. Those are the top four reasons why people use cannabis and it's pretty consistent across states and users and non-users.

Matthew: I wonder why we have so much anxiety in our culture now. Do you have any clue there? I mean because things are changing so rapidly. There's no kind of anything, any steady or stabilizing things in our lives, it's all just up in the air?

Ana: No, I've read a lot about just consumer behavior in general, and I think people lead stressful lives, you know, if you're live in a large city you're faced with traffic and you drive far and if you have kids and you're married, that aspect of it. There's the financials, there's the political environment we are in today. So everything that we're exposed to on a daily basis generates some type of stress and anxiety and people manage anxiety differently.

Matthew: Yeah Now, let's talk a little bit more about the breakdown of how the consumption takes place, because you mentioned pre-rolls, you mentioned vape pens, but do you have any kind of numbers or anything around them so we can get kind of an idea of how much the first time consumer likes to consume each one of those?

Ana: So for the first time consumer, and that's very different from the current user, 55% of them are planning to have edibles, which is not surprising. Edibles to your point earlier saying that they probably don't want to show people that they're using, it's very discreet, it doesn't smell, you can just have it in the a convenience of your home. And then 55% of them are interested in using topicals, lotions and 35% tinctures. When you look at the population of current users, that changes dramatically, 69% of them smoke flower, 50% edibles, 44% pre-rolls, 30% vape pens, 25% concentrates, 25% topicals, 22% drinks and 17% tinctures. So you can see how very different, even though edibles is somewhat similar, everything else is very different.

Matthew: Interesting. Gosh, you know, the topicals, that's higher than I would've thought, so that's good to get that data. Okay. And any insight onto what strains or what type of flowers being smoked for the first-time consumers?

Ana: Well, first-time consumers, they're really not open as much to smoking flowers and so strains and the different types of strains doesn't really impact them as much as current users. Current users they like the traditional ones. Blue Dream, Gorilla Glue, GSC, those are the most popular strains. But for the newbies, they are not very aware or familiar with strains. They're looking to solve, to get the effect or something that will help heal what they're going through, or trying to heal, so the strain is secondary.

Matthew: Okay. And how big a concern is dosage? What can you tell us about initial first-time cannabis consumers dosage questions or preferences or anything around dosage?

Ana: You know, this is one of the most important pieces I find. I, myself, experienced a lot of different situation, especially with edibles, where I'm given something that, let's say, has 100 milligrams and I have to cut it in pieces and it's never precise, right? So sometimes I don't get enough, sometimes I get too much. So for them it's the difference between having a really good experience to having a very bad experience. So my recommendation to first-time consumers, it's always just start small and to look for, let's just say edibles as an example. Edibles that are tested by piece. So for example, let's just say I buy a bag of gummies, and that bag has 100 milligrams of THC. I'm looking for a product that has 10 gummies inside, so I know that each one should have 10 milligrams and even then I cut it in half so that the dosing is small. So tested and certified that each piece has that dosage ist very, very important.

Explaining to them to start small and to wait before having more. As you know, edibles take longer to digest because they're absorbed in the stomach, so they can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours depending on not only the... And how the patient, if have they just eaten? Is their stomach full? How big are they? What's their weight like? So all of these things combined can make a difference. So that's why it varies greatly from person to person.

And then we'll just talk about topicals for example. If the problem is inflammation or pain, you're looking for a topical that has high CBD content. The higher, the CBD content, the quicker acting it will be. And the advantage of the topicals is that you don't have any psychoactive effect, which I think it makes people more willing to try, especially if it's something on your skin or in your muscles. It makes absolute sense to do so.

Matthew: And that's does work. I've tried some topicals and some family members have and, you know, it does work for soreness and so forth. So I think that is kind of a good entry. I thought, you know, we might be farther along in terms of people knowing dosages, but I guess a kind of a first-time dosage of people. Many people call it like a rookie cookie or a bar would be five milligrams, but still, there's lots of instances everyday of people taking, you know, 100 milligrams and freaking out and hallucinating and things like that. So what typically happens for people that are listening that are not aware is that, you know, you take some, you wait an hour and they say...someone says, "Nothing's happened. Nothing's happened." So they take more. And then when it comes on, it all comes on at once and you hope you got the right dosage.

So it really is much better to start slow and I'm not... And just think like, "Hey, I might have too little tonight." And that's okay because the alternative cannot be...can be unpleasant if you go that route and start eating more, taking more edibles. I like some of these new things are coming to market, these low-dose, like individual candies and stuff from like Kiva confections, I think they're called Petra, they're...I don't know if you've seen those, but I think they're mostly in California, but they're designed just for what you're talking about, it to be kind of like this maintenance mode type of effect. It's not like, you're not going heavy. It's just like you're hitting a single there. Is that, is that what your experience is?

Ana: Yeah, that's my experience. And that's what I tell everybody. I'll have a lot of friends that approached me asking how should I do it. How should I start? And I always tell them, start small, start with something that you know exactly what the dosage is going to be, and that's when you have the best experiences for sure.

Matthew: Okay. What have you seen since legalization began in California? Anything interesting there? What's it...is it...is the Wild West being tamed?

Ana: It's interesting, I think people thought, you know, in California, it's been medicinally legal for 20, almost 22 years. So I had no idea that that was the case, I didn't even know it existed. So a lot of people thought, "Oh, now it's going to become recreationally legal and it's gonna, you know, mayhem." No, there's, there's no real change. I think the biggest challenge is that there's a lot of dispenses who are still not fully licensed in this new...they all had to get new licenses, which has been a process. So I think it's been just very slow. And for consumers themselves, it's really hard, they don't know where to go. Often times they call me, do you know what dispensary opened that I can go buy product? And I have to just call them up and find out because it's not even displayed on their websites, oftentimes you don't know. So it's been a slow process and hopefully things will improve. But I heard a number a few weeks ago that, I think there's about 2,000 or so dispensaries in California and back like a month ago, there were only like 300 or 400 that had a license.

Matthew: Oh, wow!

Ana: Which is not good, but they have until July 1st.

Matthew: Yeah, that's not good. And I know some of the different marketing platforms aren't even...are being told the by judges not to show the unlicensed dispensaries. So it's kind of getting interesting now as this all... So I guess these companies will fall in line or kind of go by the wayside. So this is interesting. Now I know some flour producers, cannabis growers in California, they call their product organic. Can you call cannabis flour organic in California?

Ana: You can't. And here's why, and it's such a shame. So the agency that gives the organic certification is the USDA, which is a federal entity and since cannabis is not legal federally, they can't issue organic certifications. So the right way to do is for farmers to say it's pesticide free and cannabis users, consumers, they understand that that's the case, but the ones that are saying it they will not be able to say it now...that it's...with a new licensing rules, they're being a lot more strict. And it's unfortunate that you can't call it organic.

Matthew: I think it'd be great if we did with food is call food grown with pesticides say grown with pesticides and then say pesticide free because then people, I mean, this organic labeling is great, but I think just doing it that way, grown with pesticides. You might say, "Oh, I don't want that."

Ana: You're absolutely right. People would stop buying for sure. That would help us tremendously, help us by, I mean, people that are more health oriented or, you know, healthy eating.

Matthew: Now, do you see the initial cannabis consumer preferences evolving over the next few years? Any kind of trends or things you see in motion that kind of piqued your interest in how things might unfold?

Ana: Yeah, absolutely. Within the legal states, the brands will likely start consolidating, and what are we going to start to see is clear winners that have not only launched strong products and brands, but they are introducing innovation and a delivering consumption experiences that are seamless with products that are consistent and reliable, easy to find. What we find so far is that you find a product you like and it's really hard to, when you go back to the same dispensary, to find that product there. So with time I think that will stop happening because then it's just going to have solid brands that will continue to build their presence. And then you can also, the way I see it, if you want to think of how is it going to look like three to five years from now, it's going to start behaving more like a consumer product goods companies.

So if you look at how their products have evolved through time, that's what we should expect. So for example, there'll be new product segments, there will be segments that are low sugar, non-dairy, there'll be new formats, extra strength for example, flavors, consumption methods even, portable storage, things that are more social for social use, packaging, different value sizes, bigger, smaller, things like that. So that's what I expect, and then when we talk about other states, as more states move to legalize cannabis, there'll be a lot of licensing opportunities for established brands in these current legal states to expand to these new states.

Matthew: Yeah, that makes sense. A lot of them are starting to do that now, we're starting to hear about that. It's challenging, though, I mean, think about how all the unnecessary work these brands have to do because it's not federally legal like I can give you all the intellectual property, but you just aad the, you know, THC there on site. It's really a shame. I think they could really, we could be moving a lot faster if it was federally legal, but at the same time it is kind of nice that it's Balkanized like this because there's no massive, massive brands yet, so a lot of different people can get involved and participate still. So I guess there's trade-offs there.

Ana: Absolutely.

Matthew: Well, Ana, I'd like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. So with that, is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Ana: I would say books by Malcolm Gladwell, particularly "The Tipping Point and Outliers." I liked the way he writes. He's very, I would say casual, he writes it in a way that's almost like he's talking to you and I've seen him speak also. So to me his books help spark ideas on how we could approach new markets or strategize and better understand market dynamics. So it's been very useful to me.

Matthew: Okay. Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise, that you consider vital to your day-to-day productivity that you'd like to share?

Ana: Yeah, we use Base Camp. Base Camp as a software and it's a great way to keep everyone on the team informed on key projects, milestones, deliverables. It's a good way for me to track who's doing what. I don't like wasting time and I think sometimes work can be duplicated unless it's very clear who's owning each piece of it, and it's also a great place to upload documents and shared. It's also a very easy interface, I like it a lot. Though it can get a bit pricey, they do charge a monthly fee.

Matthew: Yeah. I'm a big fan of those guys. The two founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They're both interesting characters and also fun to follow on Twitter, they have a whole...a book that I read called "Redesign". I think it's called "Redesign" or "Rework." I can't remember, but it's all about like don't have meetings. You don't need meetings and just because your Outlook calendar books, you know, meetings in 30-minute chunks or 60-minute chunks. He's like you don't have to book them in those time periods. You could book it for 13 minutes, but just by default there, you know, Outlooks says 30 minutes or 60 minutes, so they have all these the counter-intuitive ways of thinking that I find really helpful. But you're right, Base Camp, I think they've just raised their price quite a bit, too, for new customers even so that's good. Do they have a chat function in there, too?

Ana: I'm not familiar with...I don't know, and if they do, I haven't used it.

Matthew: Okay, cool. Well, Ana, tells us one more time how listeners can reach out to you and find out more about your business.

Ana: I can be reached on my website its www.enlucem.com. I will spell it out, its E-N-L-U-C-E-M.com. There's a contact form page, so I will be more than happy to interact and answer any questions.

Matthew: Well, Ana, thanks so much for coming on CannInsider today and educating us about new cannabis consumers' preferences. That was very enlightening.

Ana: Thank you for having me.

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