A reader recently asked me how dispensaries can attract and retain older adults as customers. That’s a great question that dispensaries, and the manufacturers who supply their products, should be considering. Baby Boomers and older adults are the largest, fastest-growing group of new cannabis users, and the group with the most flexible spending options. And yet, the industry seems to largely ignore their presence and unique preferences. So, to jump-start the conversation, as a Baby Boomer observing and journaling about this phenomenon, I have two suggestions.
#1 – The problem with tinctures
Cannabis data intelligence firm Headset confirms that Baby Boomers and older adults tend to favor tinctures and other sublingual products. Commonly used up until the 1930s, once again tincture of cannabis is seen as a rare hope for relief of chronic pain and other conditions related to aging.
With tinctures, trying to find the optimal product and dosage to relieve symptoms can be a frustrating, overwhelming and expensive proposition. This is especially true for older adults who, while used to receiving guidance from their physicians regarding their medications, must often rely on dispensary employees to fill this function.
This process is further exacerbated by the puzzling labeling system of tincture products.
Tinctures defined by CBD:THC ratios provide only a very partial picture of what’s inside the bottle. The cannabinoid content in a dropper-full of 1:1 tincture, for example, can vary dramatically, depending on the manufacturer. Further confusing matters, dispensaries are free to market their products as a ratio of THC:CBD, rather than the scientific standard, CBD:THC,
I recently witnessed an older adult with back pain who replaced his regular 6:1 tincture with a 4:1 tincture from a different manufacturer, thinking he was increasing the level of THC. But in fact, the amount of THC he was getting in a dropper-full of the new medicine was actually significantly lower.
This is what happens when the baseline values between the different companies differ, in a nascent market that still lacks national regulatory standards.
By the time he finished the second bottle, the pain that had previously been alleviated mysteriously re-appeared. Going to a different dispensary, a helpful staff person pored over the labels of the first and second bottles, did the math, and explained the source of the problem. She then guided him to an appropriate product, and at last check, his pain was once again under appropriate control.
In this case, the problem was solved without serious repercussions. But the confusion over labeling can also have more serious consequences. What if an older adult unintentionally accesses a product with an especially high THC level? Ingesting too much THC can be a very unpleasant and frightening experience, even if one knows that it will eventually pass without event. But an older adult who doesn’t have the knowledge and confidence to simply wait it out, may end up taking an unnecessary trip to the Emergency Room.
Why can’t tinctures be clearly labeled – on the bottle itself – regarding the cannabinoid content per serving, in a way that doesn’t require a calculator to figure out?
#2 – “Lite” Product Lines for Older Adults
Not all Baby Boomers are looking for medicinal tinctures.
Many older adults have fond memories of getting stoned, and are happy to revisit the experience. Particularly in our older years, after retirement and, in many states, without fear of legal consequences, cannabis can offer a welcome reprieve from daily stress, boost creativity, and enhance enjoyment of life’s everyday pleasures.
Yet Baby Boomers frequently report that they stopped smoking pot back in the day because it made them paranoid. And they are also aware that cannabis today is much more potent than what they once enjoyed.
But does that mean it has to remain permanently off-limits?
Clearly, there is enough economic motivation to stack dispensary shelves with high THC products, which appeal to a younger, more cannabis-savvy consumer. And while there are some older adults who are comfortable with these potent products, many more are not.
I believe many older adults would prefer to have a cannabis product that they could use with confidence, knowing they would enjoy the experience without getting uncomfortably intoxicated.
There has been a trend to brand cannabis products by the purported effects they induce: chill, relax, passion, etc. But what about differentiating cannabis products for a specific target demographic, i.e. Baby Boomers?
A line of “lite” products with relatively low THC levels could put older adults at ease, and prevent them from experiencing unwanted “adverse effects” from too much THC.
“Lite” products would also undoubtedly appeal to other sensitive or cannabis-naïve demographics as well.
I’ll leave it to the clever product branding experts to come up with the catchy names. But, I hope they include a few Baby Boomers in their brainstorming sessions. Just like older adults are happy to be served by one of their cohort in a dispensary, they are eager to be acknowledged as worthy of recognition by the industry. And I know I’m not the only one who would be excited to find a selection of products designed just for my generation, reminiscent of the good old days.