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A new study from Washington State University suggests that cannabis could inspire entrepreneurs to come up with big, bold business ideas – but it could also lead them down a rabbit hole of wishful thinking.

The researchers found that entrepreneurs who used marijuana frequently developed more original but less viable business areas, according to a group of experts who evaluated the ideas.

“Beyond their innate creative talent, entrepreneurs can try to increase their creativity,” says the study, which will appear in the March 2021 issue of the Journal of Business Venturing. “Although we generated more original ideas, we found that cannabis users’ ideas were less feasible.”

Also important variables, the study found, were an entrepreneur’s passion, which can increase creativity at the expense of feasibility, as well as their previous entrepreneurial experience, which tended to increase the feasibility of the idea but limit creativity.

The results “provide insight into the creative advantages and disadvantages associated with cannabis use,” the study says, using insights from non-users to develop the feasibility of their ideas. “

To test the effects of marijuana on business idea generation, the researchers had 254 entrepreneurs develop “as many new venture ideas as possible” based on virtual reality – a request from the researchers. Participants were given three minutes to generate ideas and then choose the idea that they thought was their best. Then two “expert evaluators” rated the selected pitches for originality and feasibility.

Participants say their results support one of the study’s core hypotheses: there are differences between the ways cannabis users and non-users get business ideas. “Cannabis users are more impulsive, uninhibited, and better able to identify relationships between apparently different concepts,” the study suggests. “However, these differences and the limited function of cannabis users are likely to affect the feasibility of the idea.”

In particular, the researchers did not ask participants to use marijuana themselves in the study setting. To compare cannabis users with non-users, the researchers divided the participants into two groups: those who had used marijuana less than five times in their life and never in the last month (non-users) and those who had used marijuana more than five times in their life and at least twice in the last month (user).

“Unlike alcohol, for which health organizations have set standards for heavy drinking,” the study says, “scientists have yet to reach consensus on what makes a cannabis user versus a non-user.”

Since the study was an observational study, it cannot be determined whether marijuana use was actually the cause of the differences between the ideas of the two groups. It may be that other traits or traits explain both a person’s brainstorming and their decision to use cannabis.

The study cannabis user group comprised 120 people, or 47.2 percent of all participants. The researchers tried to control certain other factors such as gender, age, education, and technological familiarity.

While the results suggest that overall cannabis can both promote originality and reduce feasibility, the results were heavily influenced by what researchers called “entrepreneurial passion for inventing” and their “entrepreneurial experience”.

“The reduced feasibility of cannabis users compared to non-users was significant in people with little entrepreneurial experience,” the study’s authors wrote, “but not in people with high entrepreneurial experience.”

Similarly, “the lower feasibility of cannabis users was relevant to high entrepreneurial passion for inventing, but not to low entrepreneurial passion for inventing,” according to the study.

“The entrepreneurial passion for inventing seems to play a role in steering cannabis users towards the originality of the ideas, but not the feasibility of the ideas,” it says. “Conversely, the entrepreneurial experience seems to weaken a cannabis consumer’s positive relationship to the originality of the idea and the negative relationship to the feasibility of the idea.”

As the study itself confirms, many successful business leaders and visionaries have recognized the inspiring powers of cannabis. For example, Steve Jobs, who got glowing, noted that his cannabis use helped him feel “relaxed and creative”. “(Biographer Walter Isaacson also quoted Jobs as saying that another drug, LSD, was” one of the most important things in my life … It has strengthened my sense of what matters – doing great things instead of making money . “)

On the other hand, researchers argue that cannabis use can be a double-edged sword. “Regular cannabis use is associated with a number of adverse effects, such as the potential for dependence and addiction, the risk of motor vehicle accidents, mental and respiratory health problems, and memory and other cognitive impairments.”

Benjamin Warnick, assistant professor at the Carson School of Business at Washington State University and lead author of the study, said in a press release that the study “is the first study to show how drug use of any kind affects new business ideas.” “There is still a lot to discover.”

“There are clearly pros and cons to using cannabis that deserve further study,” Warnick said. “As the wave of cannabis legalization continues across the country, we need to shed light on the real impact of cannabis not only on entrepreneurship but also in other areas of the business.”

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Photo courtesy of the Drug Policy Alliance, Sonya Yruel

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