According to a new study by HelloMD, 84% of medical marijuana patients strongly agree that medical marijuana relieves pain and symptoms from a variety of ailments with few to no negative side effects. Furthermore, 94% of patients with medical marijuana would recommend cannabis to friends and family to treat their ailments.

That’s the kind of customer testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing that most businesses would love to have!

The research from HelloMD, the largest community of patients using medical marijuana for health and wellness in the country, was conducted in January 2016 with medical marijuana patients between the ages of 18 and 80 and is considered to be the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind to date. The report includes a wide variety of data about patients, and when you look at the data from a business perspective, it supports existing predictions for massive growth in the medical marijuana industry.

Consumer Sentiment

The medical marijuana market is growing quickly despite the fact that social perception is slower to accept cannabis as anything but a recreational activity. HelloMD explains in its report:

“Overall, the data collected, and the conversations observed, strongly indicate a new demographic of cannabis user. Moreover, this new demographic is sizable to the extent of eclipsing the recreational cannabis user. Still, the prevailing perception of a medical marijuana patient is that of a masquerading recreational user (a stoner). While there is no question that some of the medical marijuana patient population conform to this perception, our research and analysis show a much larger portion to be genuinely seeking an alternative to traditional medication for improved health and wellness.”

The data shows that the majority of medical marijuana patients are over the age of 25, highly educated, and working professionals. Many have children and grandchildren. In other words, the medical marijuana market is filled with consumers who have money to spend. These consumers believe that marijuana offers better relief from their pain and ailments with fewer negative side effects than prescription drugs. Only four out of 100 medical marijuana patients wouldn’t recommend it to their friends and family!

This is an industry that will grow through word-of-mouth marketing among a demographic that doesn’t fit the recreational marijuana user stereotype, and that’s where the business opportunity lies.

Consumer Spending

Consumer spending on medical marijuana is on the rise with 64% of licensed patients using it daily and another 28% (that’s 92% altogether) using it at least weekly according to the HelloMD report. In total, two out of three medical marijuana patients (66%) use it as the primary treatment solution for their medical issues while the other 34% use it to supplement other treatment methods.

Given these usage rates, one of the most interesting findings in the report relates to the amount of money patients spend on medical marijuana per year. Remember, 64% of patients use it daily and 66% use it as the primary treatment method for their ailments. Now, consider this—78% of medical marijuana patients who responded to the HelloMD survey spend at least $600 per year on cannabis products and 22% of respondents spend at least $1,800 per year on cannabis products.

helloMD report chart medical marijuana spending

Compare those dollar amounts to the amount people spend annually on traditional pharmaceuticals to treat ailments, and it’s clear that under current pricing, consumers can save a lot of money if they switch to medical marijuana. Again, the medical marijuana market opportunity is huge.

Consumer Purchase Behaviors

The HelloMD report shows that many medical marijuana consumers are quite sophisticated in their buying behaviors. They’re selective in the types of products they buy as well as the strains of marijuana that they purchase to treat specific medical conditions. A total of 86% of patients agree that different strains have different effects. In fact, medical marijuana patients can become very loyal (70% report having a preferred strain).

Most medical marijuana patients (67%) use two or three different cannabis products regularly. The majority of patients (71%) prefer to smoke cannabis and 66% vaporize it, but the use of edibles is increasing (48% of patients use them) as is the use of tinctures (16% of patients use them) and topicals (13% of patients use them). This is a trend that is likely to continue as people learn more about the various product options available to them.

mark hadfield hellomd

Mark Hadfield, Founder/CEO HelloMD

Today, most medical marijuana patients purchase their cannabis products from local dispensaries (61%). However, not all patients are comfortable going to a dispensary. As Mark Hadfield, Founder and CEO of HelloMD, explains, “They feel intimidated, and they worry about security and privacy. Perhaps some people have the same concerns with using a delivery service.”

Many medical marijuana patients are using delivery services to purchase cannabis products (44%) but only 5.4% are currently using mail-order services. Surprisingly, 21% rely on other sources (which include illegal markets and friends).

“If medical marijuana is going to become widely accessible and be adopted by mainstream consumers, it needs to be less of a ‘shadow industry’ with the associated stigma,” explains Hadfield. “I think that as mail order (not delivery) becomes more widespread, this will fix the issue. We see a lot of product companies that want to sell direct to consumers via mail order. At this time, this is still a questionable legal area.”

Mainstream Medical Marijuana

We’re not quite at the point where medical marijuana is mainstream, but we’re getting closer every day. The HelloMD report references the February 2016 study by ArcView Market Research, “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, 4th Edition”, which refers to cannabis as the fastest growing industry in the United States (30% compound annual growth rate) and predicts that the legal marijuana market (i.e., non-recreational use) will drive nearly 50% of the expected $21.8 billion of sales projected for 2020.

If everything continues on the current path in the marijuana industry, 2020 will be the tipping point when medical marijuana becomes mainstream.