Cannabis by the Numbers

Experts share data on the emerging category at the NACS pop-up event.

January 07, 2020

This is the second in a four-part NACS Daily series on the one-day NACS pop-up, “The Future of Cannabis in Retail,” held December 10, 2019, in Las Vegas. NACS gathered an exclusive group of 50 convenience and fuel retailers and suppliers for an up-close look at the nascent legal cannabis marketplace.

By Melissa Vonder Haar

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—While retailers are understandably eager and interested to learn more about the exciting new world of legal cannabis, there’s a major hurdle when it comes to finding accurate data about the category. “This data is still in its infancy,” said Lori Stillman, vice president of research, NACS.

Stillman was joined by experts from Nielsen and Leafly at the December NACS pop-up event titled “The Future of Cannabis in Retail.”

Here are some of the important data on cannabis they shared:

Cannabis Consumer Facts:

Stillman shared some surprising information from the Miner & Company Survey of Cannabis Consumers, including that 65% make more than $75,000, 84% are employed fulltime and 42% have children under 18.

Impact on Other Categories:

Once consumers are regularly using cannabis, Stillman revealed that they spend 58% less on OTC pain relievers, 54% less on alcohol and 44% less on prescription drugs.

$50 Million Hemp/CBD Sales in 2019

The $50 million projection is just in the retailers Nielsen tracks (of which 21% are carrying at least one CBD product). “I’d expect that to be closer to $80 million by the end of the year [2019],” said Rick Maturo, associate director of client services for Nielsen’s cannabis practice.

$40 Billion Legal Cannabis Sales by 2025

Nielsen predicts $35 billion of the $40 billion will be in marijuana sales, $6 billion in hemp/CBD. By then, 75% of the U.S. adult population will be living in a recreational state (vs. 20% today). “This will challenge many existing CBD categories,” Maturo said.

26% of Hemp/CBD Sales Will be Beverage Products

The CBD beverage market could grow to $1.5 billion to $2 billion by 2025, per Nielsen. “These are some big numbers,” Stillman said.

10% of Leafly-Tested CBD Products Had No CBD in Them

The above includes none of the four CBD water products sent to the Leafly lab. “Consumers don’t have to worry about one Bud Light being 5% ABV, one 10% and one 0%,” said Dr. Nick Jikomes, the site’s principal research scientist. “That’s not true for cannabis products today.”

178,000 Acres of Hemp Planted in 2019

The 178,000 acres is compared to just 70,000 acres in 2018. That’s good news for both retailers and consumers as “the price of hemp/CBD products will decline significantly because of this economy of scale,” Maturo said.

If you want to experience the full learnings from the event, session recordings are available from NACS for $295. Contact Erin Garay at or (703) 518-4244. (Please note: Sessions by Rick Maturo of Nielsen, Dr. Nick Jikomes of Leafly and Jeremy Bergeron of Alimentation Couche-Tard aren’t included.)

Melissa Vonder Haar is marketing director for iSEE Store Innovations and an emerging categories writer for NACS Daily and NACS Magazine.