Recent research from states that have legalized recreational cannabis, looked at whether users find the drug is more convenient and safer to buy.
The study, out of the University of Waterloo School of Public Health in Ontario, Canada was worthy of investigation, according to the researchers, as “perceptions of the legal market may influence whether consumers transition from illegal retail sources.”
“More frequent cannabis consumers are likely to have more established product preferences, as well as established relationships with illegal ‘dealers’, which could act as barriers to purchasing from legal sources,” the authors added.
For the study, the investigators examined consumer perceptions of legal versus illegal retail sources in six US states with legal retail sales: Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.
Data came from Wave 1 of the International Cannabis Policy Study, an online survey conducted in 2018 among 16–65-year-olds. 5530 US respondents were asked about their cannabis consumption and perceptions of legal cannabis.
The results found that more than half of participants in the study reported legal cannabis was more convenient to buy (59.2%) and safer to purchase (56.1%). However only just over a third of respondents perceived legal cannabis to be higher quality (37.6%).
In addition, 30.6% of respondents perceived legal cannabis as more expensive, which may be a potential barrier to people accessing more regulated sources. “The prevalence of this belief suggests that price may in fact be a barrier to transitioning to the legal market,” the authors commented, “however, it is also possible that higher prices may be tolerated given that legal cannabis products may be perceived as higher quality, safer and more convenient to access."
On the whole though, consumers reported generally positive perceptions of legal cannabis. Importantly, perceptions also became more positive over time, with people in “mature” markets, which had been legalized for longer, being more positive about the benefits and convenience of being able to access cannabis legally. It suggests even if people still dabble with illegal sources for a while, they are likely to switch over in time.