How brands and partnerships can shift consumer attitudes about cannabis

June 23, 2020
5 min read

Currently, times are changing, and it’s happening faster than most can keep up with. But a change that has been unfolding more slowly is how Americans feel about cannabis. Consumer attitudes are shifting for the better: two-thirds of consumers report a positive change in their attitude about medical cannabis use, and two in five report the same for recreational cannabis use, according to Mintel research on attitudes towards cannabis and CBD. The shifts in attitudes are not only getting noticed by brands and companies, it’s calling them to action. However, not everyone is entering the industry in traditional ways. Getting into cannabusiness is a complicated endeavor with much to consider, yet the path to participation in the industry and the occasion is not singular and often does not require cultivating or selling the plant itself.

Medical and recreational legalization have inspired a host of adjacent suppliers and businesses to serve those interested in growing, producing and selling cannabis legally, safely and successfully. A critical arm of these endeavors that goes beyond helping entrepreneurs comply with evolving regulations, meet demands for supply and innovate new products, is helping manage public perception of legal adult-use itself. At the core of the elevated cannabis perceptions are legitimacy and activism, both will be necessary to maintain this momentum.

Here, we identify brands and companies that are playing in the cannabis space, without directly entering it, and changing perceptions in the process:

Big brands get involved

To the layman, ice cream and weed killer seemingly have little to do with cannabis, but that hasn’t stopped Ben & Jerrys and Scots Miracle-Gro from taking a hard stance on legalization. Other brands such as Sephora choose to let their products speak for themselves, featuring hemp and CBD products. According to Mintel research on attitudes toward cannabis and CBD, less than one in three consumers agree that if a brand they liked supported the legalization of recreational cannabis, it would negatively affect their opinion of the brand. Brands have more to gain than to lose by supporting legal adult use. In fact, brands have the power to play a role in legitimizing the industry further: nearly a third of consumers indicated that if a brand they liked supported legalization, it would make them more open to legalization.

  • Ben & Jerry’s supports legalization and social justice efforts verbally and financially.
  • Scots Miracle-Gro released a direct statement about the benefits of federal legal adult-use and has been identified as non-cannabis (but cannabis-adjacent) investment opportunity given their partnerships with cannabis growers.
  • Sephora prominently features hemp and CBD in stores and online and is one of few brick and mortar retailers to carry exclusively cannabis brands like Lord Jones and Saint Jane.

Medical focus adds legitimacy

The health benefits of cannabis have done a lot to create positive attitudes about use. Nearly two-thirds of consumers agree that cannabis has health benefits while less than one in four believe cannabis is dangerous. Medical research and the support of physicians is key to maintaining momentum with next steps to help consumers (especially non-users) understand that subclinical benefits like less stress, better sleep and pain relief are legitimate as well—and the reason that most recreational users choose to consume cannabis, according to Mintel research on the recreational cannabis consumer.

  • The Society for Cannabis Clinicians helps connect potential cannabis patients to prescribing physicians while providing educational opportunities for medical professionals.
  • Americans for Safe Access support therapeutic use and research from all angles including legal support and activist training among many other services.

Cannabis meets Wall Street with an influx of “suits”

The majority of consumers understand cannabis as a legitimate business. More than one in three consumers agree that they would be concerned if a dispensary opened in their community and nearly two in three agree that recreational legalization would help eliminate illegal cannabis sales according to Mintel research on attitudes towards cannabis and CBD. Dedicated cannabis professional service organizations, like legal firms and consulting firms that many consumers would not traditionally associate with business, are growing in number and lend credibility to the complex industry that requires a multi-faceted professional team at work behind the scenes. Even if consumers don’t understand the complex layers of this business, professional industry partnerships can positively shape public opinion by making the business needs real.

  • Canna Advisors is a multi-faceted business consulting firm specializing in nuanced and critical licensing, compliance and regulatory processes as well as business development services like strategic planning, branding and marketing.
  • Marijuana Business Attorneys is a franchise law firm licensed in 22 states, military courts and Israel.

What we think

Brands, companies, services and organizations across the industry are looking to extend their brands to tap into the future and the profitability of the cannabis industry. Through partnerships and clear communications, many are also contributing to the acceleration of industry growth, acceptance and “main-streeting.”

Michele Scott
Michele Scott

Michele Scott is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Michele focuses on US Cannabis reports.

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