Cannabis, marijuana, weed, ganja—whatever you call it—has a vivid image in the mind of Canadians. Some perceptions are very positive, and some are exceedingly negative. But what’s of real interest are those perceptions that will either allow the cannabis market to flourish or remain marginalized.
Maru/Matchbox has a long-standing commitment to understanding the cannabis market. From tracking support and opposition to legalization for years to in-depth analyses of consumers perceptions, practices and interests, we have been deeply engaged in helping organizations understand the current and potential market for recreational and medical cannabis. That is why we have developed the Cannabis Chronicles, an ongoing series of investigations into Cannabis in Canada. In this inaugural look we consider the good, the bad and the ugly of Canadians’ perceptions of cannabis.
Our society abounds in caricatures of cannabis culture, like Cheech and Chong: perennially intoxicated, bemused, befuddled, slightly seedy, and maybe even a bit crazy or dangerous. Perpetuated by the entertainment industry, this perception has its roots in government propaganda disseminated in the drive to make it illegal in the first place.
It’s been suggested that the name marijuana was promoted by anti-cannabis forces at the time of its prohibition in the U.S. Alex Halperin, writing for The Guardian said: “For the prohibitionists of nearly a century ago, the exotic-sounding word emphasized the drug’s foreignness to white Americans and appealed to the xenophobia of the time. As with other racist memes, a common refrain was that marijuana would lead to miscegenation.
Harry Anslinger, the bureaucrat who led the prohibition effort, is credited as saying back then: ‘There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.’”
Its subsequent illegality caused further image problems—associating it with criminal culture and furtive consumption away from the prying eyes of law enforcement.
Cannabis consumers and companies have been trying to change the channel on its brand image, instead emphasizing things like cannabis-consuming Yoga moms and potential health benefits.
So, post-legalization, where does cannabis sit in the minds of Canadians? Is it the demon weed furtively puffed by dangerous “aliens” in back alleys? Or it is now a natural and beneficial herb with healing properties? As it turns out, it is seen as a bit of both.
On the positive side, most Canadians associate cannabis with words like relaxed, happy and natural. Roughly half also associate it with wellness and creativity.
On the other hand, old stereotypes persist. Roughly half associate cannabis with unhealthy, lazy and risky and a minority associate it with feeling accepted. But the most telling indication of a lingering stoner stigma is the fact that just one in ten would admit they feel “comfortable consuming it around kids.”
That stands in stark contrast to how alcohol is consumed. No one thinks twice about having a glass of wine or a beer on the dock while the kids play in the water, but clearly a lot of people do not feel the same way about cannabis. Ironically, it is legal to consume cannabis while walking down the street, while doing the same with a beer would get you with a fine. But legal or not, there is clearly a significant stigma associated with public consumption of cannabis.
Until cannabis can escape the stoner stigma that was originally used to support prohibition, it will be an uphill battle to expand the market. It is the industry’s biggest growth blocker.
To learn more about how Canadians perceive cannabis, in general, and relative to beer, wine, spirits, tobacco and vaping in particular, download our free report Cannabis Chronicles: Canadian’s Perceptions of Cannabis. To learn more about how Maru/Matchbox can help you better understand the cannabis current and potential consumer contact me.
About the Maru/Matchbox Cannabis Chronicle
The Maru/Matchbox Cannabis Chronicle, first fielded in December 2018, is an ongoing study tracking cannabis consumption, cannabis attitudes, reaction to potential cannabis innovations, as well as awareness, usage, and attitudes of key brands in the cannabis space. The study is conducted among those residing in Canada, as well as U.S. states where cannabis is legal for recreational consumption.
For more information, please contact Kyle Davies.
About the Maru/Blue Cannabis Community
Our sister company Maru/Blue has a community of pre-identified cannabis consumers. Cannabis Community members from across the U.S. and Canada have been extensively profiled on their cannabis consumption and consumption intentions. Additionally, they are profiled on how they consume and wish to consume, including smoking, vaping, edibles and beverages.
There is no need for guesswork or unnecessary screening and demographic questions. This creates a better respondent experience and more room for asking questions that really matter.