User research on female-identifying cannabis users (2018)

Tools & methods:
d3.js (data viz)

User and market research conducted for Golden Goose, a former KW-based e-commerce retailer offering products for an elevated cannabis experience. This was a project that I worked on in collaboration with the founder.


Women are a key demographic in the cannabis market, yet a significant portion do not identify with the de facto stoner aesthetic (red, green, and yellow aesthetic; purchasing at head shops; Bob Marley Posters; etc.), making them an inherently difficult demographic to cater to. The goal of this research was to identify nuances of the female-identifying cannabis user through user personas.

Below is the user hypothesis containing user-specific assumptions and goals of the two types of proposed cannabis users: the exploratory user and the regular user.

User Hypothesis

  • Female users make up a significant portion of users but are less represented than male users.
  • Users feel inclined to seek out products and services that are well designed and tailored over existing ones that are more readily available.
  • Users will withhold spending on products that doesn’t line up with personal ethos.
  • Users are more likely to explore different uses for cannabis products that are non-recreational in nature.
  • More likely to be university educated or work in a professional environment.
  • View on cannabis (and recreational drugs) is heavily influenced by how acceptable it is by society (legalization = no problem).
  • Higher buying power but reluctant to buy cannabis through unregulated channels.
  • New to cannabis and may feel stigmatized from identifying as a user.
  • Smokes at a rate of at least once a week for 1+ years prior to legalization.
  • Gig economy worker or member of the creative class, therefore has less buying power.
  • View on cannabis aligns with worldview, which tends to be liberal.
  • More sensitive to price-points and will not switch over to legal channels for products (specifically bud) unless there is an incentive.

User Research Breakdown

The findings from this research back up the initial user hypothesis, and are outlined below. All numbers are obtained from recent reports and studies conducted in North America to maintain maximal relevancy.

When comparing rates of consumption between female and male users, the trend observed supported the hypothesis that women, as a demographic, consume less when compared to men but still make up a significant portion of cannabis users.  However, with legalization and the emergence of policies in place to regulate the cannabis industry, the gap between female and male users can be expected to narrow within the future.

  • General population usage has increased since 2013, with male and female user rates both on the rise [2].
  • 33% of Canadian users reported using cannabis on a daily or regular basis [2].
  • Women are more likely to feel stigmatized from usage; 77% feel there is stigma that arises from cannabis consumption and 66% hide their usage in response to the perceived stigma [3].
  • There are two types of main users: the current user who already regularly consumes, and the conservative user looking to explore the legal cannabis market [4].
  • Women are more likely to consume cannabis products for non-recreational purposes (relaxation and de-stress; sleep; treating anxiety and acute pain) [4].
  • Newer users would like a more tailored purchasing experience [5]; 68% of women want a better retail (online and offline) experience [3].
  • Current regular users are more sensitive to price points, with 75% reported to make the switch to legal channels if the price is deemed reasonable [4].


Given the blurred legality surrounding cannabis, user statistics obtained from consumer reports and statistical surveys are not as comprehensive or reliable when compared to numbers obtained for substances that have been regulated for longer (such as tobacco or alcohol).

Current coverage on cannabis obtained through alternative channels is inaccurate, as the amount of marijuana sold on the blackmarket could potentially be untracked or distributors may not be willing to release exact numbers to the public.

User numbers for women as a demographic may be underreported due to the stigma surrounding cannabis as a formerly illegal drug.


Following the methodology of lean UX, user assumptions were made to support the proposed user hypothesis, which was then further validated with research. The user assumptions developed from this case study are outlined in the personas below.