US Hispanics have historically been linked to cannabis, but until recently that association was marked by racial inequality. In fact, cannabis was referred to as “marijuana” “because anti-cannabis factions wanted to underscore the drug’s ‘Mexican-ness,’ meant to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments,” according to Matt Thompson from NPR’s Code Switch blog. It’s also the reason why some cannabis advocates today consider “marijuana” a derogatory term. Another symptom of this inequality is that Hispanics and Blacks are significantly more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than Whites, despite similar rates of usage.
It’s in our DNA: Hispanics’ Long History with Cannabis
Before it was considered an illegal narcotic in the United States, cannabis, one of the world’s oldest and most widely cultivated plants, was always highly valued in Spain, Portugal, and Latin American cultures for medicinal, healing, sacramental and recreational purposes. In fact, by the early 1800s Spain encouraged hemp production in New Spain (Mexico, including California, Texas and other southwestern states primarily for the manufacture of paper, rope and clothing.
By the end of the 19th century, Mexico had already developed quite a significant marijuana culture, According to Leafly magazine, “cannabis could be found growing in the wild and was commonly cultivated by peasants who mostly smoked it in pipes and was extensively used by traditional medicine-men, known in Spanish as curanderos,”
This historical usage underlies the importance that the wellness component of cannabis has among Hispanics, which cannot be emphasized enough. Hispanic use of homeopathic and natural remedies is well known and is due to various sociological and economic factors, which naturally leads us to view the legal and medicinal use of cannabis as very positive.
But there are other factors at play in Hispanic acceptance of cannabis legalization…. specifically, the age factor.
Latinos are Young and Open to Cannabis
The 2019 MRI-Simmons Study found that Latinos’ attitudes toward cannabis use and legalization are “significantly different than those of the general population” in their tastes, attitudes and behaviors[AD1] . I believe that this belief system is driven by the youth of the Hispanic market. The younger segments across all ethnicities are much more open to cannabis legalization, and Latinos are on average the youngest ethnic group in the United States.
The U.S. Hispanic population has a median age of 29.5 versus 40.6 for the non-Hispanic population, according to the Census Bureau. So, it’s no wonder that Hispanics´ numbers on the survey were higher in favor of cannabis given that they are younger.
We can view the age issue in another way, a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis shows that the common age for a White U.S. resident is more than five times that of a Hispanic. Specifically, the most common age of Hispanics in the United States is 11 and for Whites, it’s 58.
Hispanics & Cannabis: Marketing Implications
There are three important points that should drive Hispanic cannabis marketing initiatives:
- Hispanic support for cannabis legalization
- Hispanic support for cannabis use in health and wellness
- The younger median age of Hispanics
The youth of Hispanic consumers simply means that they will be around for much longer and their purchasing power will only continue to rise, which means that this segment will not only be more profitable for cannabis and CBD marketers to target today, but Hispanics are also an increasingly important market to target for the long run.
In fact, according to the MRI-Simmons Study, Hispanics are 19% more likely to fall into the Wellness Pot Practitioners segment—a group heavily into cannabis as a wellness tool who are two times more likely to use CBD products.
Hispanics also represent a very attractive segment for the travel and hospitality sector. In the MRI-Simmons Study, Hispanic consumers showed significantly more interest in using cannabis on vacation and in social settings than their non-Hispanic counterparts. And they were 42% more likely to say they’d choose a vacation destination based on whether cannabis is legally available.
Hispanic Consumers: The Growth Engine of the Cannabis Marketplace
U.S. Hispanics are more involved than other Americans in promoting the legalization of cannabis, and more interested in the wellness and recreational uses of marijuana and CBD products in their lives. In short, more and more U.S. Hispanics will continue to reject any stigma associated with marijuana and will increasingly view cannabis, hemp and CBD as wellness and lifestyle tools. It would be foolish and detrimental to marketers to ignore this influential and growing cannabis consumer segment.
Patricia Testa- Managing Partner – D2H Partners, LLC – 2021
About d2H Partners – Los Angeles based full-service Hispanic Advertising Agency focused on D2C and B2B Spanish language campaigns targeting immigrant, first-generation and “billenial” Hispanics. d2H specializes in creating, adapting, and delivering targeted messages to Latinos to profitably enculturate your message, media and metrics.