Society’s Tolerance Shaping Cannabis

Across the world, there is a significant uptick in consumer support for legalisation, a trend which will continue to accelerate. Consumer demographics and use occasions are expanding, making cannabis legalisation a widely disruptive dynamic.

The legal cannabis industry is set to be dominated in the short to medium term by two regions — the Americas and Europe. However, the momentum gathering behind cannabis normalisation and permeation is now universal and other regions will begin to gather pace.

Society’s tolerance for cannabis use is likely to increase

As cannabis legalisation begins to increase, society will share similar concerns associated with alcohol use — driving while under the influence, cannabis use in the workforce and in the public. While there are strict regulatory elements of these issues, social regulation will likely produce differentiated responses in various jurisdictions.

Societies are likely to address driving under the influence and cannabis in the workplace first. This will result in low or no tolerance for cannabis use while driving and limited consumption in the workplace. Currently, regulatory regimes mandate the private use of cannabis.

Inhaling cannabis will largely continue to fall under existing smoke-free laws. However, as both public tolerance for consumption increases and delivery formats diversify the contentiousness of consumption in shared spaces will reduce.

The future of the regulatory framework

The regulatory distinction between medicinal and recreational cannabis is technically contrived and will fade in the coming years. This will leave a broad cannabis product landscape. On one side it will be used as a functional ingredient in foods, beverages and beauty.

On the other side, it will be positioned as a wellness product for non-clinical treatments of health issues such as pain, anxiety and sleep. Intoxication and targeted wellness will be the largest mainstream consumer segments and will blur the differences of regulation related to product positioning, access and claims.

Predicting the regulatory choices markets will make

Looking forward, a key question for the industry is what models newly legalising countries will adopt. And within those models, what choices they will make on the major categorising features of the markets. This includes state involvement and level of restriction in cultivation, product, marketing and distribution.

In a rapidly evolving industry, there are some key indicators to help predict future regulatory systems. First, geographic proximity will play a role.

Neighbouring markets are likely to align regulatory frameworks and set the foundation for others. Second, a country’s attitude towards adjacent sectors, like tobacco, will help predict their approach to cannabis

Across the world, there is a significant uptick in consumer support for legalisation, a trend which will continue to accelerate. Consumer demographics and use occasions are expanding, making cannabis legalisation a widely disruptive dynamic.

The legal cannabis industry is set to be dominated in the short to medium term by two regions — the Americas and Europe. However, the momentum gathering behind normalisation and permeation is now universal and other regions will begin to gather pace.

To learn more about Euromonitor’s predictions for how the cannabis industry will move, download our white paper “The Cannabis Index: Where Will Legalisation Move Next?“