Background: Consumers’ access to cannabis has been considerably expanded in US states where recreational cannabis was legalized and commercialized. However, little is known about the important factors influencing consumers’ purchase decisions in cannabis retail dispensaries. This study examined cannabis users’ perceptions of the relative importance of policy-relevant factors when they made cannabis purchase decisions.
Methods: An online survey was administered to 817 adult cannabis users in seven states in the US (California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) that had approved cannabis commercialization by the time of interview in January 2018. Twenty policy-relevant cannabis attributes were evaluated, including those pertaining to product characteristics, quality, package characteristics, price and free sample, store characteristics, and restrictions on use. A best-worst scaling experiment was employed, which asked respondents to select the most and the least important attributes in a choice scenario. Each respondent answered 10 choice scenarios, each including a random combination of four attributes out of the 20. The relative importance of each attribute was evaluated using hierarchical Bayesian estimation of mixed logit models.
Results: Overall, ‘quality’, ‘strain type’, ‘price’, ‘THC’ (tetrahydrocannabinol) and ‘pesticide’ were the top five important attributes affecting cannabis users’ willingness to buy cannabis in a dispensary. These five attributes jointly accounted for approximately half of the total importance. In subsample analysis, both recreational and dual-purpose users attached higher importance to ‘quality’, ‘THC’, and ‘price’, whereas medical users tended to think ‘CBD’ (cannabidiol) and ‘pesticide’ were more important. All cannabis users perceived ‘package’ to be the least important attribute. Gender had no major differences in perceptions.
Conclusions: Cannabis users in general perceived product characteristics, quality, and price to be important factors in their willingness to buy cannabis in dispensaries. There were heterogeneities in the perceptions by cannabis use purposes. The findings might deserve consideration in cannabis policy design.
Keywords: Behavioral Economics; Best-worst scaling; Cannabis Legalization; Consumer Preferences; Recreational Cannabis.