Between California and Colorado, BDS conducted 2,000 interviews, ensuring a roster of 1,200 participants who had used cannabis in the last six months. "This was one of the most difficult studies to design and set up," says Linda Gilbert, BDS's director of consumer research, who has conducted wellness research for over thirty years in numerous countries. Researchers wanted to ensure that they could gather a population sample representative of the general public, which meant surveying everyone from outright rejecters of marijuana use to regular users. Gilbert says she's confident that the researchers found a "robust sample that will be statistically projectable to population, with a plus/minus three-point margin of error.
"As far as I know, no one has ever done anything like this before," she adds.
Gilbert says she expected to find a fair number of consumers who used pot for medical reasons, but found some surprises there, too. "It actually ends up that a lot of consumers claim to use cannabis for self-care" rather than traditional medical reasons, she explains. "These are likely the same people who use supplements or eat organic and vegetarian foods."
A happy, successful, social, self-caring, art-appreciating, outdoor-loving cannabis user? Proponents of legalization should have a heyday with this study.
In fact, Gilbert says that she saw notable differences between some Colorado and California responses, which she sees as "reflective of the maturity of the legal market" in Colorado. In this state, people surveyed were much less likely to think that cannabis led to mental illness or the use of other addictive drugs; those beliefs were stronger in California. And Colorado participants were much more likely to say that legalization helped decrease crime and increase revenue for the state.
"The thing everyone agrees on," Gilbert notes, "is that cannabis can impair your ability to drive, and that we need tests to determine if you are driving under the influence."
The study is a trend study, which means it will be updated every six months indefinitely; Gilbert considers it comprehensive, validated and built to last. BDS has already extended the research to Washington and Oregon, both of which have legalized pot. "The aim is that this will eventually be a national study," Gilbert concludes. "I hope and expect that ten to twenty years from now, this study will still be continuing."