Article by Kate Robertson, Growth Op
I’m always on the hunt for a cannabis strain called Sour Glue. I bought a quarter on the illicit market years ago, and its pungent, gassy-citrus flavours and high-THC punch had heady but not heavy effects. After sharing some with friends, we were quickly cracking deeply silly jokes and cackling our asses off.
I have no idea if it’s rare, but I haven’t been able to find it since.
That’s why a story like the New York Times’s latest long-read about weed, Cannabis Scientists Are Chasing The Perfect High, sounded relevant to my interests. “Same,” I thought.
But this story, and those like it, aren’t really written for people who enjoy getting high.
You might think a story about how the cannabis industry wants to create consumer packaged cannabis goods that deliver consistent effects to consumers would, perhaps, include a description of how said products made the reporter or a consumer feel.
Instead, we get a lot of detail about the science of cannabis so far — how researchers are trying to understand the entourage effect by capturing consumer data and number-crunching average responses of various products. It would be fascinating, but it’s old news.
After very gently and respectfully allowing North America’s leading cannabis companies to act as though they’ve made a great discovery, the story doesn’t interrogate the concept of custom-built highs further. For instance, rather than questioning the idea that a vape pen called “Relax” will actually make the majority of consumers feel relaxed, the story buries the most interesting point — the subjective nature of the effects of cannabis — way down at the bottom.
“Someone who smokes a bowl at the end of a long day of physical labor may well have a different experience if she smokes the same pot with friends at a party or before she does yoga,” writes Gary Greenberg. “Someone who buys weed with a particular expectation may well have an outcome shaped by that expectation. And perhaps most important, the particulars of an individual’s neurochemistry can change the way a plant’s chemicals affect the brain.”
As much as I want to reproduce that fun day with my friends when we smoked Sour Glue, I can guarantee that if I had some today — as a pandemic rages outside my doorstep, inflicting itself on the world’s most vulnerable — I would never reproduce the same experience. I just can’t. But I’ll keep chasing that strain and that high, because that’s part of the adventure of being a stoner. That’s part of the fun.
What’s strange to me about stories like this and the industry in general is that its target audience is rarely the people who use cannabis. There’s an active, pre-existing market with deep pockets, that doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention from R&D departments in this industry as non-cannabis consumers. The focus has instead been placed on developing vape pens for booze drinkers, the wellness set, the THC-averse and CBD-curious — anyone but the millions of stoners who would love nothing more than to buy new cannabis products, if only someone would develop something strong enough at a good price.
The very same industry people who talk endlessly about “reducing stigma” are reinforcing it through this obsession with taking the mystery out of the cannabis experience. They’re afraid of weed, they certainly aren’t comfortable with talking about getting high, and they might even find those who do kind of gross. Why else don’t they listen to feedback or target the existing market?
This is one of the crucial reasons as to why the industry is struggling so hard to resonate with consumers: It’s not for us.
Rather than treating the research that goes into cannabis strains as innovative science, it’s basically the Rotten Tomatoes of weed. Maybe there’s some value in that. I would love to find a cannabis critic who I can trust to recommend products.