Crossing the cannabis chasm

Post-workout recovery drinks. Cold ones to crack open after a tough rugby game or time on the ice. Softgels and vapes for a night out. Topical creams and oils for intimate moments.

Within a few short years, all those things – and more – will be cannabis-infused, in one way or the other.

From the moment Canadian adults wake up, power through their work day, hit the gym and socialise with friends before relaxing and going to bed, it’s entirely possible there will be a cannabis consumer product designed to enhance every moment of the day and turn them into experiences. And, like everything else on a store shelf, they’ll be rigorously tested, predictable and offer a consistent experience.

Is there anything we can’t put cannabis into? Between the well-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD, as well as other minor cannabinoids such as THCV (being studied for its appetite-suppressing properties), the utility of this natural plant is bounded only by Health Canada regulations…and the imagination.

Cannabis connoisseurs – the innovators and early adopters – already know this. Cannabis has been consumed for one reason or another for millennia. In fact, it is no surprise that cannabis tourists (those who had never used it before) did not swarm cannabis stores immediately following legalization day, although there were plenty of cannabis purists who did. Despite voices predicting gloom and doom, society did not fall apart. The world didn’t go up in a blaze of pungent smoke. Cannabis “has always been a part of our society, Trevor Fencott, CEO of cannabis retailer Fire & Flower recently noted, “we just daylighted it.”

And now, six months away from cannabis chocolates, gummies, topical creams, beverages and vapes hitting store shelves, we’re daylighting cannabis 2.0.

Are we ready? And more to the point, are Canadians ready?

The innovators and early adopters of cannabis are ready, that’s for sure. Like their counterparts in the tech industry, they are the advance troops of ‘cannasseurs’, bud tenders and cannabis purists who live ahead of the curve, try new things before anyone else and are quick to spot trends. They’re the ones who clogged the Ontario Cannabis Store website on October 17th, merrily tested the array of products on offer and will no doubt be the first in line when edibles are available.

They’re also a lot different from most Canadians, the early majority who will try canna-chocolates or a beverage less because it’s new, but more for pragmatic reasons. They want a recognizable brand they can trust, that gives them the same predictable experience every day. If a product seems appealing, they’ll give it a try, but they aren’t willing to put up with dubious quality from questionable sources simply to follow a fad. For them, non-intoxicating CBD products will likely be their first purchase as a safe, but exciting new experience.

The early majority are also hard to convince because they’re risk averse, especially when it comes to cannabis stigma. Just as American organisational theorist Geoffrey A. Moore famously remarked about crossing the chasm between selling to tech-savvy early adopters and the rest of consumers in the world of technology, so, too, will licensed producers need to leap the cannabis chasm. Products need to be easy and safe to consume, formats need to be discreet, packaging must be practical and appealing, as well as child-resistant. The information needs to be easy to understand. And they need to be priced accessibly. In the highly competitive and aggressive consumer packaged goods market, it’ll take a whole new approach to marketing to truly develop innovative products.

Make no mistake. Although Canadian cannabis companies are currently at the vanguard of what will become a multi-billion-dollar global industry, we will be competing with multinational consumer goods companies who will view cannabis as an ingredient, not a revolution.

Yet as product experts, we are also uniquely placed to create ventures with Global Fortune 500 companies, such as HEXO’s joint venture with Molson Coors Canada, that will leverage the expertise of each into trusted products Canadians will want to try. Between such innovations and a responsible approach to educating people about cannabis, we can build a bridge that crosses the chasm and puts Canadian cannabis products into the global market.

Are we ready? Yes, we are.