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We spoke with Eoin Keenan from Prohibition Partners about the stance of the cannabis industry in the current climate. Eoin provided us with a lot of information and discussed global positioning, where Prohibition Partners is looking to progress and how COVID-19 has greatly impacted consumer demand.
Eoin Keenan, Director of Content & Communications at Prohibition Partners
Eoin: What we have seen globally is that a lot of consumers and medical patients have been stockpiling, both before and during the lockdown, so we’ve seen a huge surge in terms of cannabis purchases, which helps the industry as a whole. We’ve seen before lockdown that demand for cannabis increases and it appears to follow the same trend during lockdown.
We ran a consumer research analysis last month in the US, UK and Canada and found both medical and recreational consumers intended to increase their usage of cannabis. In fact, they were four times more likely to increase their usage, so demand has clearly increased.
There’s a question around how we give a stimulus to the economies most affected by COVID-19 and, for me, legalisation is a viable option. In the 1920s and ’30s, we saw this in the provision of alcohol, which was legalised in part because there was so much unemployment. Once all of this has died down, public opinion may swing in favour of legalisation but whether governments act on that is another question.
Harriet: What’s your opinion on how the recreational versus the medicinal market is doing at the moment? Do you think one is progressing faster than the other?
Eoin: I think there’s huge demand there. As I’ve mentioned, our consumer research shows that both recreational and medical users are interested in cannabis prior to this lockdown. Then you’ve also got the potential for CBD products to be very popular during the lockdown – a time of high stress and anxiety.
Look at the last 10 years, we’re seeing a shift in the population in terms of attitudes towards liberalising the cannabis market. There are two factors I think should be considered with regards to this: demand will probably increase for cannabis consumer goods and public and political attitudes will swing in favour of legalisation.
Harriet: The whole health and wellness aspect of it – people are now trying to look after their immune systems more and have to make a real effort to be healthy, so I think a lot of those people who haven’t been consumers before might go down this route.
What are some of the key insights you feel people in the industry could learn from this crisis?
We’re a little bit lucky in terms of where we sit – as a consultancy, data and strategy platform, as well as a digital conference platform, we all come from tech backgrounds and the transition has been quite swift for us, whereas I know a lot of cannabis businesses are going to struggle and potentially go under.
There is a wider conversation there; we saw 18 months ago that the cannabis market went through a lot of turbulence in terms of being over-leveraged in their evaluations. Companies had a lack of actual solid revenue and profits, so they were already at risk. Whilst having an economic shock like this puts them at severe risk, I think there’s an argument there to have a potentially slower, more sustainable build in terms of the industry. That’s a real conversation that I think needs to happen.
Fortunately, our business model and strategy is robust. We’ve seen a huge demand for data, insights and strategy at a time like this when firms are looking to reevaluate, understand and plan. In addition, our digital conference is experiencing a huge amount of interest. Travel is naturally disrupted, but attendees are still looking for high-quality content and education and a way to interact with the global community online. We provide that.