During this crisis, cannabis marketers should stay the course

During this unprecedented crisis, the industry needs to continue to responsibly promote the health benefits of safe and sensible use of cannabis, but also have an eye on consumer behaviour.
This article originally appeared on Canna Commerce

It is a very challenging time. Not surprisingly, more and more people are turning to cannabis to alleviate stress and anxiety. Cannabis sales look to be strong in many markets, despite more limited access to bricks & mortar stores. And it is important that marketers communicate how, and how not, to consume cannabis during this time.

According to Dr. Junella Chin, people should consider avoiding irritants such as smoking and vaping as it affects the respiratory system – and this is one of the areas COVID targets in people who test positive for the disease. Smoking is the method of cannabis consumption that one should avoid most, so trying tinctures, capsules, edibles and beverages instead of the inhaled forms of cannabis may be the way forward during this difficult period. Marketers should capitalize on this knowledge and promote these other product formats.

Due to the continued lack of clear regulations, cannabis marketers can’t make specific health benefit claims, however encouraging these other forms of consumption (versus smoking or vaping) may help consumers, and the industry, in the long run. And it looks like consumers are already making the move; format use has already evolved in the COVID-19 era, according to Headset. Edibles are emerging as the growth leader during the pandemic, with sales up 28% as of April 2.

On a related front, Dr. Dani Gordon offers some caution. There are no studies on the effects of cannabis with regard to the coronavirus and cautions against making too many claims. “Plant medicines like CBD and medical cannabis do so many amazing things that there is no need to stretch the truth or make claims that cannot be backed up, at least not currently,” Gordon says. Consumers get it – a new survey from the Brightfield Group suggests up to 40% of consumers plan to use CBD far more frequently because of COVID-19, with 15% planning to use a higher dose.

This unprecedented event also affords marketers an opportunity to pivot based upon consumer behavior data. E-commerce sales have boomed – will consumers continue to purchase from home or will they go back to traditional retail? Will edibles capitalize on their recent momentum? Will CBD establish itself as a healthy way to help consumers cope with the negative impacts of the crisis? How has the alcohol industry benefitted and what can cannabis learn from them?

This crisis will end. As it does, cannabis marketers will need to adjust to the ‘new normal’. Over the past few years many consumers have turned to newly legal cannabis as a healthy and responsible part of their adult life. With this foundation in place, the industry should stay on message and make the adjustments necessary to ensure that cannabis stakes its rightful place in the ‘new normal.’