By: Cecil King
Missouri’s Future Cannabis Consumer
While the grand opening of the first retail cannabis dispensary in downtown Rolla, Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis or any other city in Missouri isn’t scheduled to happen anytime soon, it would be interesting to predict what types of cannabis customers would walk through the front door of a retail cannabis shop in Missouri.
Nationwide demographic data for legal cannabis transactions, both medical and recreational are statistics hard to come by. These types of businesses handle all-cash transactions and no customer financial records are kept.
California has allowed medical cannabis usage since 1996. Patients need a doctor’s recommendation to legally posses cannabis. Patients must strictly adhere to possession limits established by state, county or city ordinances. The state does not issue an ID, so there is no centralized demographic repository of cannabis users and medical records are not open to the public.
California county governments can issue IDs with the Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) program. The MMIC ID “identifies the cardholder as a person protected under the provisions of Prop 215 and SB 420. It is used to help law enforcement identify the cardholder as being able to legally possess certain amounts of medical marijuana under specific conditions.” Therefore, it is STRONGLY recommended to apply and posses a MMIC ID to avoid any undesirable outcomes with law enforcement encounters.
Medical cannabis users in California can voluntarily apply for an annual county residence MMIC ID to identify themselves to local authorities as legitimate cannabis patients. But any demographic information collected on this application is far from standardized and not shared county to county.
“When we started offering online Medical Marijuana doctor consultations, we expected the majority of our customers to be existing recreational users seeking to become legal,” says San Francisco-based Mark Hadfield, CEO and founder of HelloMD.com a digital healthcare provider.
“We were quite surprised to find that the majority of folks coming through our service were not recreational users at all,” explains Hadfield. “Instead, we met retirees, veterans, and working professionals looking for alternative medicinal treatments for a wide variety of conditions.”
HelloMD started in the traditional telemedicine space, but has changed their business plan to focus exclusively on supporting a rapidly growing number of patients wanting to use medical cannabis. Hadfield’s company offers a “low $49.00 Doctor Consultation fee for convenient access to an informed, compassionate doctor via video-conference.”
Heading east from the California coast to Colorado-based Euflora dispensary, customers are overwhelmingly cannatourists at the main store in Denver’s 16th Street Mall location.
Owner Jamie Perino allows customers to “educate themselves” as opposed to the traditional dispensaries which emulate cigar stores forcing customers to wait in long lines to talk to an attendant behind a counter.
“Our customers can go back and forth between open tables displaying strain selections,” says Perino, and “they can spend as much time as they want inspecting the cannabis strains in a more relaxed manner.” Perino’s staff walk the floor to answer any visitor questions. She can efficiently serve more customers with this retail design.
Perino’s customers will skew to the younger, upscale, professional and techno savvy crowd and are drawn to an Apple retail store or Starbucks experience. Electronic computer tablets serve as the primary sales tool. They electronically display strain information, THC levels and a description of the distinctive effects next to the adjacent jar of cannabis. Staff will offer a hand-held scanner so customers can “capture” product information, an idea inspired by retail giant Target’s wedding registry.
The store layout has earned Euflora the nickname of the “Apple store” of cannabis and is the only dispensary in Denver’s “LoDo” (Lower Downtown) mall district. Lines of cannatourists spill out the door at Euflora’s where an average of 2.3 million visitors annually experience the pedestrian mall filled with eclectic shops, eateries, street vendors and performers.
Moving up to the northwest coast and the home of the largest annual gathering of cannabis advocates in the world at Hempfest is the emerald city of Seattle, WA. Hempfest organizers proclaim their three-day festival, now in its 24th year, as Washington’s oldest cannabis business.
Attendance to the free event can exceed 450,000 on average and is entirely supported by donations and sponsorships. Organizers can put their marketing and advertising muscle behind a cannabis business, brand or service with a paid sponsorship ranging from $2,500 to $50,000 for full packages.
Hempfest offers to target the “highest concentration” of cannabis users on the planet, a “primary audience of 25-54 year olds.” Bucking the conventional wisdom that all cannabis users are young stoners or fringe members of society, the largest age demographic in attendance is 45 to 54 years old, followed closely by the 35 to 44 age group. Surprisingly, 55 to 64 years old attendees out number the 18 to 24 age group.
Sales to out-of-state visitors in Washington’s recreational cannabis market adds millions of dollars to state coffers. Dispensary and ancillary business owners claim that 50-60 percent of all retail cannabis sales are to tourists.
In Seattle, Kush Tourism co-founders Michael Gordon and Chase Nobles have extensively studied the city’s recreational cannabis industry. They have customized their Seattle cannabis tour services primarily for the needs of out-of-state tourists.
“People from all over the world are fascinated with the idea of legal cannabis. Especially Canadians,” observed Kyle, a Kush tour operator. “I have had people on our tours from numerous states in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Korea, and MANY different provinces in Canada.” Tourists will spend upwards of $200 on cannabis products in the dispensaries we visit offered Kyle.
The typical cannabis consumer in Missouri would be hard to profile for any future Missouri legal cannabis retail shop. It would be safe to estimate that almost half of the customers would be out-of-state tourists.
Legal cannabis continues to grow in the U.S. and those states which fail to drop prohibitionist policies will suffer economically as the new cannabis economy strengthens and matures.