How to Market Your Cannabis Dispensary to Gen X Customers

Features - Attracting Generation X

Part Two of a three-part series on understanding generational differences in dispensary customers explores the elusive Generation X.

January 23, 2020

Illustrations by Cornelia Li

Sandwiched between baby boomers and millennials, Generation X grew up operating under the radar. As marketers drooled over those larger adjoining generations, Gen Xers went about their business, rejecting baby-boomer mindsets, perfecting latchkey-kid independence and resisting definition. (Read our feature on marketing to baby boomers here.)

Turning 39 to 54 years old in 2019, with birth dates between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers are at their peak of earning and spending power. They comprise 33% of the nation’s workforce, according to a 2017 Pew Research report. And, according to cannabis data experts BDS Analytics, they account for 30% of the cannabis-consuming public in fully legal states.

Got your attention? Dispensaries that heed these Gen X insights can get a head start on winning big shares of this generation’s cannabis dollars:

1. Gen Xers exemplify the average cannabis consumer

Given their place between baby boomers and millennials, you’d be right to assume Gen X’s habits and preferences overlap with both groups. When it comes to cannabis, Gen X aligns with the average for all cannabis consumers, across age groups.

Jessica Lukas, vice president of consumer insights at BDS, breaks down the average U.S. cannabis consumer in adult-use states: 60% prefer inhalables, about 30% prefer edibles and 10% prefer topicals. With Gen X cannabis consumers, those numbers run nearly the same, with just a slightly higher preference for edibles versus topicals.

“We talk a lot about boomers and younger generations, but as we look at Gen X, they look very much like the ‘average cannabis consumer,’” Lukas says. “They’re kind of what you’d expect—a combination of consumption preferences and a combination of the reasons why they consume.”

2. Gen Xers highly value health and personal wellness

Gen X’s emphasis on health and wellness, particularly among female consumers, presents a “huge” opportunity for dispensaries that cater their message to those concerns, says Jennifer McLaughlin, vice president of merchandising for cannabis operator Calyx Peak Companies.

“Female cannabis consumers in this age group are growing at double the rate of men,” McLaughlin says. “They’re under pressure and stress, looking to have control of their health. They’re looking for their health and wellness go-tos. Cannabis is falling into that group for them.”

In addition, BDS data shows Gen X cannabis consumers are health conscious, Lukas says. “About 50% of them put a high priority on taking care of themselves, and 66% believe marijuana is healthier than alcohol,” she says. “It’s not surprising that cannabis is part of their personal health and personal wellness.”

3. Gen Xers want convenience and clarity

Gen X is the busiest generation of cannabis consumers, which is why they place a high value on convenience, says Jennifer Culpepper, creative director and founder of cannabis branding agency Brand Joint. “Anything that adds convenience is definitely going to be a plus,” she says.

Culpepper suggests dispensaries offer convenience-oriented services, such as delivery or drive-thru options. “Being able to order online and pick it up, or order online and pick it up through the drive-thru, would definitely be a benefit and a service that would be appreciated,” she says.

These types of services are particularly appealing to women in this age group.

“Female Gen Xers don’t have the time,” McLaughlin says. “The way to speak to her is to make it clear and quick and appealing. It can’t be confusing.”

Lukas says the quest for convenience extends to consumption format, a key driver for Gen X purchases. BDS data suggests this is less about discreteness than ease of consumption.

4. Gen Xers’ habits shift with clock and calendar

Across all generations, consumption habits vary depending on the time of day and time of week. But Lukas says the shift in consumption reasons and product preferences is accentuated with Gen X. Pain relief, stress management and recreational uses are common preferences among Gen X consumers, according to Lukas.

BDS insights reveal 71% of Gen X cannabis consumers in adult-use states consume for recreational/social reasons, with inhalables a typical recreational choice. Fifty-seven percent consume for health/medical reasons, with topicals leading the way for that use.

Culpepper attributes Gen Xers’ taste range, in part, to their place in the generational scheme—old enough to have been exposed to traditional forms of cannabis but young enough to have an open mind.

“Because it’s that in-between generation, I still see a lot of flower use,” she says. “But I also see a lot more trying new things and being more open … and not necessarily tied to one particular type of consumption method.”

5. Gen Xers buy more per trip and per month—from places they trust

One pivotal way Gen X cannabis consumers deviate from their “average” profile is spending. Lukas reports that Gen X cannabis consumers in adult-use states buy more per shopping trip and more per month than other generations, reflecting the multiple uses in their lives.

“In most cases, they’re buying different products for different needs,” she shares.

Where Gen X spends those dollars depends on trust—the No. 1 driver for their dispensary choice. The No. 2 driver for Gen X dispensary choice? Convenience of location. With this generation, Lukas says it’s less about products, cultivars, prices, discounts and loyalty programs than with other consumer segments.

“Their focus on where they shop is really tied to the staff and how they feel when they walk in,” she explains. “They want to feel like they’re getting good recommendations and that it’s a trustworthy place.”

Tune in next issue for part three of this series when Cannabis Dispensary examines millennials and Gen Z.

Jolene Hansen is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to GIE Media Horticulture Group publications. Reach her at