A scene from a spring dab party in Malibu
A scene from a spring dab party in Malibu
File photo by Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly

As L.A.'s Marijuana Market Explodes, a Snapshot of the New Pot Buyer Emerges

New figures from marijuana business analysts confirm that Los Angeles will continue to be an American cannabis market without peer as legal recreational sales begin in January.

New Frontier Data and delivery platform greenRush today released a new analysis of expected statewide marijuana revenues and online sales projections that puts L.A. at the center of the action in the United States. "Los Angeles will likely become the largest cannabis market in California — and eventually the world — after adult use is implemented in the state," according to the report, "Cannabis on Demand: Evolving Trends in California’s Medical Market."

"We expect Los Angeles to be the single largest city market in America for a time to come," says John Kagia, executive vice president for industry analytics at New Frontier Data. "When we think of all the other top-tier cities in the U.S. — New York, Chicago, Houston — most won't have legalized adult use in the near future."

The researchers behind the report say delivery and online demand will stoke much of the explosion in L.A.'s marijuana market as legal recreational sales are permitted to begin next year. The city had previously outlawed delivery services, but proposed regulations expected to be in place in time for the dawn of recreational sales will allow them. This could be a game changer, experts say.

"Changes to the current delivery regulations, coupled with the impending implementation of the adult-use market, will result in the establishment of a massive new market of patients and consumers with increased access to delivery services for legal cannabis," the report states.

Statewide, the New Frontier analysis predicts 12 percent annual increases in sales to hold steady for the next eight years, by which time the market will be worth a projected $6.6 billion.

Millennial marijuana fans will dominate the California online market, the report states. It looked at greenRush sales data from January 2016 through April of this year. The site is used as a platform for online sales and delivery services for a multitude of dispensaries statewide.

Folks between the ages of 18 to 34 represent a whopping 80 percent of online purchases. The average age of a greenRush.com user was 29. Men represented about 70 percent of buys and purchased about $71.27 worth of cannabis-related product during each online visit, according to the report.

Women were more keen on natural buds or "flower" — 59 percent went old-school with their buys — than concentrates when greenRush data was analyzed. About 57 percent of men went for flower. Friday was the biggest weed-buying day, the report found, but 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday was the most popular time block.

Sales of flower will continue to decline, analysis said, but still constitute a majority of weed product sold through greenRush, according to the report. Concentrates are the hot new kid on the block and represent 22 percent of online sales through that platform. The researchers say they expect that figure to grow. Edibles will plateau, they say, while concentrates like dabs, wax, shatter and oils will boom.

"This shift from flower to concentrates or nonflower products is being fueled primarily by accelerating demand for concentrates and vapes," Kagia of New Frontier says.

The market will be driven by name-brand products, analysis say. Generic O.G. Kush won't cut it as this game gets highly professionalized and the marketers come calling. Furthermore, branded products are much more likely to be processed concentrates (as opposed to branded flower), experts say.

"It's no coincidence that you're seeing this shift from flower to nonflower," says Jude Widmann, vice president of analytics and business strategy for greenRush. "With shifts to nonflower products, the opportunities to create a different brand that reflects a level of quality and design aesthetic has become critical.

"As companies are realizing that there's so much more choice now, it's imperative to have a brand that's recognizable and resonates with a target audience," he said.

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