As the date to officially end Cannabis Prohibition approaches, I’d long planned to share my experience as an American living in Washington State, which legalized adult-use cannabis in 2014. In June of this year, however, the information and sentiment shared at the inaugural World Cannabis Congress left no question, that while not the first governing body to deploy adult use regulation, Canada’s commitment to public health is first in class. The World Cannabis Congress is an invite-only, first-of-its-kind event presented and produced by Civilized Media, which is based in Saint John, New Brunswick. For 48 hours in this quaint, earnest town (pop. 65,000) convened four-hundred delegates representing dozens of countries and sectors ranging from government and policy to investment and infrastructure to CPG consulting and creatives. In this short time were big take aways culminating in clear signs that the era of modern cannabis has arrived.
Citing epidemic rates of imprisonment and addiction, Hon. A. Anne McLellan, Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Cannabis Legalization, stressed in the Congress’ opening keynote that the current state of affairs proved that we have a failed public health policy. The Task Force recognized that the fact Canadian youth use cannabis more than their peers in other developed countries creates more far-reaching, long-term criminal justice consequences while still not solving for immediate public health concerns. The underlining purpose of the legislation to take effect is to protect the country’s youth from industry and incarceration.
The Task Force’s key takeaways from a two-year consultation with established adult-use jurisdictions highlight the need for patience and trust on behalf of the citizens and the state.
- Complex, multi-year initiative
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Public education
- Consultation and collaboration
- Monitoring and ongoing system refinement
In short, this is gonna take a minute. And it won’t be right out of the gate. But Canada is trying and, clearly, cares.
Just as the roll out for legalization will be a work in progress, so to will be Canadians’ behaviors and attitudes related to cannabis. There are, however, patterns that have emerged in U.S. adult-use states that will also prove true in Canada. Collectively, the forecasts that follow are capable of diminishing societal stigma thanks to responsible, correct messaging and consumption.
1) Cannabis Education Will Become More Prevalent
Our beliefs and behaviors around cannabis are related to a combination of what we’ve been told and what we’ve experienced. To date, education related to cannabis is typically bundled with street drugs as part of an abstinence-based curriculum. Full stop. Cannabis education today forces one to reconsider and reframe everything related to this plant. Bad experiences also contribute to perceptions that characterize cannabis as a gateway to other bad experiences or as a means to get messed up - exclusively. Proper dosing, state-mandated labeling, strain info and efficient consumption methods promise more control for today’s cannabis consumers. Put simply: Forget what you know because the cannabis of today offers a very different experience and outcome than that of the past. Even the recent past. It takes 800 joints to overdose so cannabis is not like “other drugs.”
2) Smoking Will Steadily Decline
Although Canada’s regulations limit products immediately available to loose-leaf flower, joints and certain MCT-oil formations, innovation will shortly take hold in the space. There is an inverse correlation between increased cannabis innovation and decreased numbers of consumers who smoke cannabis by way of combustion. Consider the trend of sales reported by U.S. retailers that reflects a steady year-over-year decline in revenue of dried flower. Perhaps the more compelling trend is the sharp decline of pre-roll sales in 2017 (CO, WA, OR) after a record year in 2016, the result of nearly 300% increase over 2015.
The confluence of increases in innovation, education and adoption has resulted in a desire for highly discreet, use-specific products such as topicals, infused water and oil vaporizers.
3) More Consumers Will Replace Alcohol with Cannabis
My use of cannabis was infrequent at best prior to WA enacting adult use in 2014. I never held a medical card nor was I ever holding [a stash]. Now, you’re more likely to find me in possession of cannabis than with a hangover. Alcohol sales lower 15% once a U.S. state enacts Medical Marijuana Laws.
Alcohol isn’t the only thing supplanted by cannabis. As Commisioner McClellan expressed, cannabis is a “gateway to exit” opioid dependence - on the part of patients and doctors to treat pain. In fact, cannabis use was associated with 64% lower opioid use in patients with chronic pain.
4) Microdosing Cannabis Will Gain Popularity
Like duh. As the name origin of Van der Pop conveys, I was early to see how big small would be. Named - in part - for Mies van der Rohe whose mantra “less is more” makes for, yes, great design and a more positive experience with cannabis. Health Canada adopted a 10mg single dose - as is standard in the U.S. where a 2.5mg microdose has gained increased popularity evidenced by more products available at this low THC dose.
While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have the benefit of having lived in a cannabis future for nearly four years while working for nearly two in a country destined to be the future of cannabis. This limbo is, simultaneously, a source of fulfillment and frustration. As of 10-17, a new cannabis future begins, destined to replace itself several times over. Be patient, learn more and consume less, even if it equals more.
April Pride is the Founder and CCO of the cannabis lifestyle brand Van der Pop.