While politics remains a steadfast hurdle for the cannabis industry, other aspects of the green market reveal its growing legitimacy. Support services like point-of-sale and security software, specialty cultivation companies, and sometimes even banks have sprouted along with selling the actual plant.
Data — as in, its mining, analysis, and dissemination — is one of the most important of these auxiliary fields, and Colorado-based BDS Analytics weaves it into business gold, enhancing the cannabis market in the process.
BDS Analytics collects data through sales at individual dispensaries, and in consumer surveys, to develop a perspective of cannabis growth built on statistics.
Don’t worry, the data they collect isn’t traced back to individual customers and the surveys are entirely voluntary, so there’s no need to worry about it being used against you.
The data is mostly sold to cannabis companies who use it to make business decisions such as what products to stock on the shelves, but also provides benchmarks for cannabis markets all over the country.
While the data mostly benefits businesses, it has a sort of symbiotic benefit to consumers.
Co-founder and president Liz Stahura said dispensaries can use the data to stock their shelves with what customers purchase the most (and hopefully like), but it also acts as a check on some brands’ claims, like being the largest or fastest-growing retailer in a certain region. BDS has the numbers to vet those claims.
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BDS has used its data for political purposes on occasion. When Oregon legalized recreational cannabis in 2015, BDS argued publicly against claims that edibles made up as much as 46 percent of the state’s medical marijuana market, saying it was actually 15 percent.
BDS founder Roy Bingham started the company after realizing that market data readily available for other U.S. businesses was not present in the new legal cannabis industry, Stahura said. BDS has since become one of the leading providers of such data.
“It was clear it was going to need the same types of insight as every other established industry,” she said. “These industries we’re used to working with in our prior careers, they not only use, but they depend on the types of data we provide.”
Stahura has spent a decade providing market data in other fields, primarily outdoor and sports apparel with big-name companies like Nike and North Face.
“For me, it was a right place, right time kind of thing,” Stahura said.
She sees some of the challenges in the cannabis industry as remarkably similar to other “specialty” markets.
For example, dispensaries are inundated with brands, she said, and deciding which to carry can be difficult without knowing how those brands sells.
The other side of BDS’s analysis focuses on “who the cannabis consumer is and why they’re consuming,” Stahura said.
“There’s often a stereotype of a young white male wearing a hippie outfit living in his parents’ basement,” Stahura said. “But the reality is that cannabis consumers … are really looking like a cross-section of the general population.”
She said consumers come from all ages, ethnicities, and income brackets, and they’re typically employed.
In that population, Stahura said certain sub-sects have popped up as well, such as the baby boomer consumers more interested in medical benefits, connoisseurs more interested in “high-end products,” and those interested in health and wellness.
“Cannabis is pretty unique in that there are so many different ways you can consume or utilize the cannabis plant,” she said.
BDS Analytics just released its GreenEdge Platform in Arizona, which generates consumer data through partnerships with dispensaries in the industry, allowing the dispensaries to track trends and develop better products.
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Not every dispensary has to be a partner to provide accurate data for the whole industry. Analyzing more than around 25 percent of the market doesn’t vastly improve the data, but that doesn’t mean the company would turn away clients, she said.
Soon, the data will help provide a clear perspective of Arizona’s cannabis market and consumer — perhaps a valuable tool in dispelling more myths in the advocacy battles to come.
Below: recent stats provided by BDS Analytics about cannabis consumers:
* Average age of North American cannabis consumer: 42
* Average consumer has a full-time job, at least some college history, and is more likely to engage in social and/or physical activities.
* Age 35 and older: 58 percent
* Have kids: 55 percent
* Married: 32 percent
* Have consumed cannabis in past six months, or would consider consuming: 60 percent
* Think it should be legal in some form: 80 percent