Canadians want more cannabis education: study

A survey commissioned by Starbuds Canada suggests consumers are open to more guidance in retail environments.

Education has become the cornerstone of recreational cannabis marketing, but many consumers still feel like they could use more guidance as they shop, a new survey suggests.

Starbuds Canada, a company that has been working to establish a cannabis retail network in provinces where private sale is permitted, commissioned the study by Leger Research, polling 1,648 Canadians online in September.

Among the survey’s respondents, 44% said they are either currently consuming cannabis or are curious about trying it following legalization (that is slightly higher than most other national surveys – such as a July report from Vividata that put it closer to 38%).

Nearly the same amount of current (84%) and potential users (83%) said that cannabis providers – namely, retailers and others that will be selling recreational products – should be able to educate consumers on the effect of a specific strain or product, both positive and negative. Further, 74% of users believe that suppliers should be able to recommend products best suited for specific activities, such as fitness, relaxation and productivity.

Many cannabis producers have seized on the opportunity to educate consumers in their marketing, launching web platforms that address the questions of new and experienced users alike, or positioning their strains around different occasions when it could be consumed or the effect it will have, instead of focusing on things like THC and CBD levels. But on the retail side, advertising and promotional restrictions within the Cannabis Act state that retailers are only permitted to communicate information about price and availability of products at the point of sale. Dave Martyn, president of Starbuds Canada, argues that the retail environment is a place where consumers might need that information the most.

“When guests walk into a cannabis store for the first time, they may seek advice on how to complement specific cannabis strains for certain activities, similar to wine and food pairing,” he says, adding that rules around the way both producers and retailers can communicate about cannabis may be leading to vague and confusing language in the marketplace. “Because we have to be cognizant to not associate cannabis strains with a recreational lifestyle, we have to use terms like ‘for a spark’ or ‘to unplug.’ As a result, Canadians will be left feeling like they have to navigate a secret menu that varies store to store.”