Why wouldn’t people use cannabis?
Bruce Linton // WTF VICE
Bruce Linton doesn’t understand people who use gummies in Canada. Edibles are unregulated, illegal or both, so dosages can be a mystery. “It’s like, ‘Hey buddy, just eat this, and it may or may not completely [mess] you up for somewhere between zero minutes and four hours.’ You wouldn’t do that!”
He likens using gummies to buying street meats—you never know if you’ll get a good meal, or botulism.
When he thinks What the Future, he’s looking at the near future (fourth quarter, in Canada), when more forms of cannabis will become legal. And he wonders what barriers will still hold back customers.
GenPop: When you look at different ways people consume cannabis, people cite ease of purchase and ease of use as key reasons they choose what they choose. Why is that?
Bruce Linton: It still comes down to that super-boring topic of public policy. Because in Canada if you’re getting vapes or edibles today, you’re buying them from the dude in the puffy coat, until Q4 of this year. Under the existing or the new legal system, we can’t sell edibles, vapes or ingestible liquids.
GenPop: That will lessen the ease of-purchase issue.
Linton: If all an area has is an online store, the per capita consumption is extremely low, relative to those places with stores. If you had enough confidence to get in the door, the people inside have enough knowledge to help you make a buying decision. If you go to a website, it doesn’t mean you have the confidence to click “buy.” Did you pick the right stuff? Is it too strong? Is it too weak? I think physical stores can lead to education and better decision ability.
GenPop: What can companies like yours and the industry in general do to further that education?
Linton: One of the first things we did was ask ourselves this question: “Suppose your mum wanted to get a job selling cannabis at a store. But she’d never purchased cannabis. How could she get that job?” We had a database where we interacted with 60,000 health professionals over the course of a few years. We found every objection and found every potential outcome. Over the course of about five months, we created a self-paced training program which about a thousand people have now passed.
GenPop: What does that get you?
Linton: If you compare stores in America, the biggest thing I noticed between the brands is some of them have decent training and some have no training. If I go into a decent dispensary and I ask three different people the same question, I get approximately similar answers. In a poorly run store, I will get three very interesting and diverse answers.
GenPop: How do you go about creating brands and scaling them in this field? Is that different from other industries you’ve worked in?
Linton: You can brand a raw ingredient like cannabis, but you probably make a more durable brand if you use good science and create products that aren’t yet generally available. I think science has a bigger function in creating outcomes to create better products that I think are more brandable. Google is a relatively stupid name, but because they did an amazing job on the technology, you use Google.
GenPop: Which other industries do you see as potential partners, and which could be competitors?
Linton: I would use the phrase, “Who, in rank order, is most disrupted in their normal course of business?” I don’t mean to compete with anybody. Who is this immediately worse for? The criminals— the current supply chain. Could this disrupt alcohol? Maybe. But there’s an awful lot of alcohol and cannabis existing in the world now, so maybe not. Could it disrupt geriatric care? Maybe. A lot of drugs get sold to you as you get older.
Could it disrupt sleep aids? Maybe. A lot of people don’t sleep as well as they should. Could it start to become a major thing for companion animals and their anxiety? Probably. Could it disrupt smoking? If we can cause smoking cessation to occur through an inhalation device that gives you a load of anti-anxiety product from cannabis, in a format that feels like you’re using something in your hands, that probably could be disruptive to the smoking sector. When I started this, we didn’t mean to disrupt cotton, but I think [with hemp] that we could.
What the Future is a quarterly deep dive into different aspects of consumer and social thought and behavior. Each edition features exclusive new data from world-leading research firm Ipsos. WTF explores how a single industry or behavior fits into the broader culture now and in the coming decades. Read Previous WTF Issues »
How do you use Cannabis?
Which of the following four statements do you agree with?
Topicals (rubbed on your skin)
Oils (drops and tinctures)
Edibles (eaten in a food)
Source: Ipsos survey conducted between Feb. 25 and 26, 2019 among adult cannabis users in the U.S. and Canada.
Mostly, “convenience of use” and “convenience of buying” were listed as the top reasons people prefer their chosen
Americans cited “ability to share” as a key reason to use pre-rolls, and “friends do it” for vaping. Speed of onset
was important for users of concentrates.
In Canada, vaping was seen as healthier, as were oils.
GenPop: And what industries become complementary? Streaming entertainment, for instance?
Linton: All of those venues which help socially normalize people will become complementary. Where are you located?
GenPop: I’m in Chicago.
Linton: So in Chicago if you get a beverage, it’s probably been delivered to the restaurant or the store by [the liquor distribution company owned by] the Wirtz family. The family would probably make an excellent ally, because do you think I wish to be in the business of operating trucks and staff for delivery and distribution? No. You start to find long-term care beds – meaning anything from slightly-assisted living to the last days. Those places become partners because they want to differentiate the quality service they provide to your loved ones based on the gentleness of care.
GenPop: As there is more acceptance, regulation and research in this space, does that start to reduce some of the existing stigma?
Linton: If I encounter bias every week, I’m right on track, because bias means I’m causing early friction of our idea with an old idea. If there’s no bias, I feel like I’m either super-late or the exciting part’s over. So I don’t think bias is going away.
Why don't you use cannabis?
I am not interested in cannabis.
It's illegal where I live.
I don't like the thought of smoking it/smoking isn't healthy.
I don't like the smell.
I don't feel comfortable buying/using it.
I am afraid of potential side effects.
It is too expensive.
It is against my religion or morals.
I am afraid it may be a "gateway" to using other drugs.
I am worried about becoming addicted.
It requires a doctor's prescription.
I am afraid of getting caught.
I had a negative experience with it in the past.
My spouse or friends don't use it.
Source: Ipsos survey conducted between Feb. 25 and 26, 2019 among 1,005 adults who do not use cannabis in the U.S. and between Feb. 26 and 28, 2019 among 1,004 adults who do not use cannabis in Canada. Response of "Other" omitted.