What is adult-use cannabis?

What is adult-use cannabis

The term “adult-use cannabis” refers to the regulated and legalized use of marijuana by adults, typically 21 years and older. Unlike medical cannabis, which requires a prescription and is intended for treating specific health conditions, adult-use cannabis is used for personal enjoyment, relaxation, or recreational purposes. The legalization of adult-use cannabis has been a significant shift in drug policy in various regions, reflecting changing societal attitudes towards marijuana.

Evolving Consumer Preferences and Legal Landscape

Consumer Shifts and Legal Status: Adult-use cannabis refers to the use of marijuana by individuals primarily for leisure and not for medical purposes. In the U.S., it’s legal in 21 states as of 2023. Notably, there has been a shift in young adults’ preference towards cannabis over traditional cigarettes, signaling its rising popularity among younger generations. THC potency is a key consideration for 60% of cannabis consumers​​.

Market Trends: Over half of U.S. adults have tried cannabis, reflecting its mainstream acceptance. Despite economic challenges, the market has shown resilience with consumers spending more on cannabis, even if they gravitate towards less expensive products. The average retail prices of cannabis have dropped by about 20%​​.

Product Diversity: The range of cannabis products is expanding, with a notable increase in the popularity of beverages, edibles, vapes, and pre-rolls. Meanwhile, traditional offerings like tinctures and flowers have seen a dip in sales​​.

CBD and Employment Contributions

CBD Usage: CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is used by 14% of all U.S. adults, jumping to 20% among 18-29-year-olds. This underlines the growing acceptance of CBD’s potential therapeutic benefits​​.

Employment Impact: The cannabis sector is a significant job creator, supporting 428,059 jobs as of January 2022, translating to an average of 280 new jobs daily. This highlights the industry’s role in contributing to the economy and providing employment opportunities​​.

Market Dynamics and State Performances

  • Billion-Dollar States: In 2023, eight states achieved the billion-dollar mark in total retail sales, with California, Colorado, and Washington leading. Despite a market decline, California is projected to record $5 billion in adult-use sales​​.
  • Emerging Markets: Nine new states have implemented commercial adult-use cannabis sales since 2022, contributing to a projected 12% nationwide growth in cannabis sales, reaching $29.6 billion by the end of 2023. This rapid expansion contrasts with the slower growth of the first 11 adult-use programs​​​​.
  • Michigan’s Market: Michigan is expected to record over $2.9 billion in adult-use and medical cannabis sales in 2023, a 27% increase from the previous year. The state has the highest demand among adult-use states, with an average monthly spend of $23.42 per capita​​​​.

Cannabis and Tobacco: A Health Perspective

A study scheduled for publication in the July 2023 issue of the Journal of Health Economics found that adult-use cannabis laws are associated with a lagged reduction in adult tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and e-cigarettes. Key findings from the study include:

Increase in Cannabis Use: Adult-use laws increase prior-month cannabis use by 2-5%, including through vaping, particularly among people who have not previously consumed cannabis.

Reduction in Tobacco Use: There’s no evidence that adult-use cannabis laws increased adult tobacco use. Instead, they are associated with a lagged reduction in tobacco use by up to 2% after 2-3 years of the law’s enactment.

Dispensaries’ Role: The opening of dispensaries is linked with larger reductions in tobacco use, indicating the substitution of tobacco with cannabis​​.


Adult-use cannabis in 2023 embodies a dynamic and evolving landscape, reflecting changing consumer preferences, legal advancements, and its impact on the economy and public health. The industry’s resilience and growth, despite economic challenges, along with its role in job creation and potential health benefits, underscore its significance in contemporary society.