A new study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research examines the factors that influence the behavior of cannabis consumers. The study provides valuable insights into the reasons why consumers still purchase illicit market cannabis when they have easy access to legal recreational cannabis.
The team conducted a comprehensive review of databases in health, business, and social science to build the data for their study. If a data set was compiled, or a study was carried out by a person who purchases cannabis, they were considered ineligible. The studies included had to examine at least one attribute that would influence purchase choice and studies published in the English language could be of any methodological design. Two independent reviewers conducted two levels of screening, and a second reviewer verified all extraction. The researchers produced a qualitative synthesis of the findings and assessed the quality of the included studies using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool.
While the review initially screened 4,839 citations, ninety-six were deemed eligible for full-text review, and only 35 were included in the final synthesis. Price was the most common influential factor (27 studies). Twenty studies measured price elasticity and most of these found that demand was price inelastic. Many other attributes impacting purchase behavior were also identified (e.g., product quality, route of administration, product recommendations, packaging), but none were explored in depth.
Eleven studies addressed aspects of product quality, including demand elasticity based on quality, potency, and aroma. Studies also explored consumer perceptions of quality, but no definition of it was provided. Smoking cannabis appeared to be the preferred route of administration but was only examined in three studies. Overall, the review pointed to the need for more research on preferred modes of administration and determining traits of high-quality products.
The study concluded that consumers are likely seeking the lowest-cost, unregulated cannabis method. However, many medical professionals believe the most effective way to choose cannabis products involves reviewing the terpene and cannabinoid profile.
Sources: Journal of Cannabis Research