The mainstreaming of cannabis.

John Duncan

Head of Content, Leafly (Canada)

Weed. Pot. Mary Jane. Cannabis. It goes by many different names, but always evokes the same reaction: a slight chuckle to shield a certain level of discomfort talking about the topic.

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the first G7 country, and the second country in the world, to federally legalize adult-use cannabis. With only 1% of the world’s countries adopting such a policy, federal legalization for adult-use cannabis is about as taboo of an idea and industry as it gets (despite opinions among liberal urbanites).


So, in a country where this globally fringe topic is no longer relevant, what does taboo now mean for cannabis? Additionally, in an industry that literally started overnight, does traditional thinking even exist if there is no tradition to work from?

Like most societal issues, just because something is legally allowed or proven to be true does not make it instantly accepted by all. In fact, making it legal or proving it to be true historically has created a deeper divide amongst peoples. Just because science has proven the effects of climate change and its dire consequences doesn’t mean a unified approach to eco-friendly policies and actions have been immediately implemented. When a taboo idea comes into the mainstream, the burden of proof for that decision becomes that much more daunting and necessary.

That onus mainly lies with those in the industry. We must work extra hard to prove over and over again that the decision to make this taboo idea mainstream was the right one. But the onus also lies with those outside of the industry, especially those who benefit from it.

Medical cannabis producers must collaborate with the healthcare industry to continue testing and proving any real effects cannabis has in aiding the treatment or curing of diseases; the healthcare industry must welcome such collaborations; recreational cannabis producers and cannabis adjacent companies must eschew portraying and appealing only to the stoner stereotypes in their marketing and branding; all consumers, from new parents to grandparents, must feel empowered to announce themselves as such; and cannabis retail stores must create welcoming environments for all people, not just the already enthusiastic users.

It is often said, “If only we could start from scratch!” What freedom it would be to start from square one. No sacred cows exist yet because no time has passed to create them, and the worst thing that could happen would be to do exactly that. Embracing the fringe ideas are the only way for progress and innovation and true breakthroughs and acceptance to occur; that was how the cannabis industry got here in the first place.

Hopefully, this freedom won’t be taken for granted and, instead, will be utilized to try new things. If this freedom is seen as a fresh start, it has the ability to create a welcoming paradox of it being too risky to be risk averse, too traditional to anoint cows as being sacred in the first place and, most especially, too taboo to not talk about cannabis.