As the cannabis market matures here in Oregon, consumer trends continue to evolve. Stereotypes and the traditional caricature of cannabis enthusiasts are changing — as well as their chosen consumption style.
“There are a very wide range of cannabis consumers who are consuming for different reasons and for multiple reasons,” says Liz Stahura, co-founder and president of BDS Analytics, a cannabis business intelligence company that tracks four states: Washington, Colorado, California and Oregon, which has the highest percentage of consumers at 35 percent.
Since January 2015, Oregon has generated more than $1 billion in cannabis sales, and sales were up 45 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. Flower consumption continues to decrease, comprising less than 45 percent of retail sales by the end of 2017, and interest in edibles and concentrates continues to grow.
One possible reason? It’s easier to control dosages.
“You will see that in every different market we track, gummy candies are the most popular edible product,” Stahura says. “They are very easy to sub dose. You can buy a 10-milligram gummy and cut it in as many pieces as you like.”
And while cannabis producers and processors in other states are starting to address this trend, BDS Analytics sees an untapped market in Oregon to create more products for the micro-dosing consumer, who can tend to skew older or newer and less-experienced.
Even the “power users,” or those longtime cannabis consumers who have a higher tolerance, are opening up to the idea of micro-dosing, according to Mason Walker, CEO of East Fork Cultivars, a CBD-focused farm located outside of Cave Junction.
“Micro-dosing is increasingly popular,” Walker says. “People are interested in milder experiences. In some ways, we’ve been effectively overdosing on THC for a long time, and there is a trend of almost correcting to a more proper dose.”
Whereas heavy users, or people he dubs “moonshine chasers,” are usually looking for high THC content when they buy at dispensaries, Walker is seeing a shift to more interest in the other cannabinoids and “ratioed varieties.”
“People don’t always want to drink moonshine. It’s not a very social thing to consume. As we learn more about the science of cannabis and how it interacts with our bodies, even for the people who want to get intoxicated from THC, they want a more rounded experience,” Walker says.
Carl Venezia of Indigo Gardens in the Applegate Valley shares a similar sentiment.
“The consumers (in dispensaries) are looking at very high-potency scores and using that as a guiding force for buying,” Venezia says. “But we’re finding a lot of demand for CBD-heavy products.”
As a result, his farm is focusing on more specialty strains that are CBD dominant with a bit of THC. And instead of offering one larger pre-roll, it is offering two smaller joints at .4 grams.
“When it comes to micro-dosing, you can have a low amount of THC, but it also has to do with the ‘entourage effect,’ how all these different cannabinoids and terpenes work together to enhance or detract from a feeling that you are getting from the product,” Venezia says. “When they come together they can be amplified or diminished, and that can change how the product is experienced.”
Micro-dosing is a fairly new term, according to Jackie Carlino, an herbalist for Sun God Medicinals in Central Point. Sun God is one of three herb businesses operated by Sun Breeze Inc., which include two dispensaries, Breeze Botanicals in Ashland and Gold Hill.
Carlino says people are already taking smaller doses to treat anxiety, depression, pain and to enhance sleep — and it’s perfect for those who have never consumed before or older folks who may have a lower tolerance.
Micro-dosing is consuming multiple times a day, usually 2.5 milligrams or less, and comes in many forms — most commonly a tincture drop, one puff from a vaporizer or a small piece of an edible.
“We sell a lot of tinctures, because they make it really easy to control your dosage, and they also affect you in about 15 minutes,” Carlino says, adding tinctures for pets are becoming increasingly popular at their dispensaries. “So, you can take it every 15 minutes to get the effect you need, whereas edibles take up to 90 to 100 minutes.”
Carlino stresses the effect is different for everyone.
“Keep experimenting until you find the dose that works for you,” she says. “It’s generally recommended that first-time micro-dosers start off at 2.5 milligrams, maintain that level for approximately three days and increase if necessary. Start low and go slow.”
That said, the market changes depending on where you are in Oregon. For instance, Dicot Farms is located in Eagle Point, but it doesn’t sell its flower in the area, according to Ria Gonzales, its Portland operations manager. The company sells mostly in Central Oregon and on the coast, and it’s in the process of opening a dispensary in Portland.
“Depending on what city you are in, even sometimes the neighborhood, the market changes,” says Gonzales, who has spent several years working in Arizona’s medical market. “We sell a lot of clones in Southern Oregon. It’s hard to sell your product there because it’s so oversaturated.”
Gonzales says for the product that her farm does sell, they are holding prices at $1,000 a pound.
“In Oregon, the sheer amount of farms is remarkable to me,” she says. “When you have a small, controlled number, there’s not a lot of competition to make yourself better. It would take $50,000 a week to stock my store in Arizona, here that is a couple of months’ volume. The costs are different, and the amount of competition is different, so it’s not as lucrative of a business here in the rec market.”
You can follow Liz Gold on Twitter/Instagram @lizstacygold or read her blog at www.14karatliving.com.