Medical vs. Recreational Mindset

Data suggests that consumers increasingly seek marijuana for reasons that don’t fit into the old paradigm.

Sales of recreational marijuana are fast eclipsing the medical market. According to a recent annual state government report, in 2018 Colorado dispensaries sold twice as much recreational as medical cannabis. Over the course of 12 months, the gap between the two categories increased by 73 percent.

This shift isn’t unique to Colorado. In June, an Associated Press analysis detailed how states with recreational and medical marijuana programs are seeing the number of medical patients decline as more consumers transition to the adult-use market.

At first glance, the surge in recreational use simply reflects decades of pent-up demand. When Colorado’s first recreational shops opened in 2014, they rang up just 38,660 pounds of cannabis, about 25 percent of the total market. But by last year, recreational had jumped to 66 percent of the total. According to the state Department of Revenue, marijuana sales set a new record by topping $166 million in July, up 9 percent from June. The increase is nearly all due to recreational cannabis.

On a deeper level, the trend suggests that it might be time to take a hard look at the old dichotomy between medical and recreational use. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, many customers at recreational dispensaries report that they consume cannabis for the same reasons that registered patients do, particularly to alleviate pain and sleep issues.

“De facto medical use of cannabis for symptom relief was common among adult-use dispensary customers and the majority reported that cannabis decreased their medication use,” wrote the report authors.

Of the 1,000 adult-use-only respondents, 65 percent reported taking cannabis to relieve pain and 74 percent said they used cannabis to help them sleep. In the vast majority of cases, these “recreational” consumers found that cannabis improved their symptoms. Among those taking cannabis for pain, 80 percent said it was very or extremely helpful. In addition, 82 percent of those taking over-the-counter pain medications and 88 percent of people taking opioid analgesics reported reducing or stopping use of those medications. Of people taking cannabis for sleep, 84 percent described it as very or extremely helpful, and 87 percent of those taking over-the-counter sleep aids and 83 percent of people who took prescription sleep aids said they had been able to reduce or cease use of those medications by using cannabis.

In other words, many recreational customers are using marijuana to get relief from symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression, or certain kinds of pain that may not rise to the level of a full-blown medical condition – or they’ve been unable to find lasting relief through traditional medical options. As the study authors concluded, “Adult use cannabis laws may broaden access to cannabis for the purpose of symptom relief.”

After decades of prohibition, research into the myriad potential benefits of cannabis is beginning to take off. In the meantime, a wide range of consumers are seeking out alternative methods to improve their overall well-being. It’s not a recreational experience that they’re looking for, exactly, but it’s not a straightforward medical one, either. You might call it cannabis with benefits. Or, as we at 1906 like to say, “a New High.”

At 1906, we’ve carefully designed our reliable, fast-acting, and delicious edibles to make people’s lives better, whether that’s through helping them to relax, stimulate their libido, boost their energy, or just simply have more fun. Experiences that are good for your body, your health, and your spirit.