Results of Thoughtexchange

Thank you for taking time to share your thoughts about the socioeconomic challenges and opportunities of recreational cannabis legalization to rural B.C. areas on Thoughtexchange. I would like to share some early results of the exchange that ran from June 14th to July 24th, 2018. I have created a summary based on the thoughts that were shared by over 200 people, and that received over 4000 ratings.

If you are interested in my research paradigm, methodologies and approach to analysis, please jump to the Inherent subjectivity blog post, otherwise, read on for the results.

Thoughtexchange results
Two hundred and seven people participated, mostly from Nelson (28%), Castlegar (19%), and Rossland (19%). The ages of participants were “mid-life”, 40-49 (31%), 30-39 (26%), and 50-59 (17%). General Citizens made up the majority of respondents (49%), while 13% were from the Education sector and 11% identified as Cannabis Industry Professionals. 251 thoughts were shared. In general, people are concerned about challenges of legalization much more than they are optimistic about opportunities.

There were two distinct groups that surfaced, with divergent opinions; according to the way thoughts were rated. One group largely expressed concern over how the current cannabis industry and participants will transition to the legalized regime, and the barriers they face, while the other group expressed little interest in developing a formalized cannabis economy and concern for the current industry. The latter group however, expressed concern for increased use and access, particularly for youth, safety, such as driving under the influence, normalization, and concern for regional bylaw enforcement.

Interestingly, these two groups converged on some topics too, such as opportunities for research, and concern for therapeutic access for medical patients, as well as accessible quality products.

Opportunities:
Only 57 thoughts were coded as Opportunities, which were further categorized as economic development, harm reduction, education and research in that order of prevalence.

Challenges:
Tripling the number of opportunities, 180 thoughts were coded as Challenges. The vast majority of challenges were related to concerns about transitioning to the legalized regime, economic related policy, socially focused policy, safety, health and access, youth, normalization and stigmatization, again in that order of prevalence.

Within each of these categorizations, you can view the thoughts shared, which can be further themed (although I didn’t code for this, yet), for example, in terms of economic policy concerns, a major theme that was discussed was the proposed government run provincial distribution system. Many small businesses are advocating for farm to table, or farm gate sales, which would bypass the provincial distribution model. While I can’t confirm the accuracy of the “rumours”, there is talk about the possibility of using block chain technology to enable transparent, yet secure transactions, which would ensure regulatory requirements are met.

Conclusion:
It is clear that the topic of legalization is polarizing, which is well documented in this exchange and leads me to wonder how legalization will affect social capital in our region. To me social capital is an indication of a well-functioning society, which is often driven by a shared sense of identity, values and purpose, as well as meaningful social interactions, and trust.

While there is some anticipation that the impacts of legalization may be potentially economically detrimental (particularly to some small areas), there is also talk about how legalization could be socially helpful: some speculate that legalization may “clean things up around here” and provide an opportunity for other industries to grow, following a long run of overshadowing by the strong illicit cannabis industry. Transitioning to the new rural cannabis economy may therefore mean some current participants move into new sectors, others move into the legalized regime, while others remain in the black or grey markets if the demand continues to exist.

For a review of all the themed thoughts, please check out the bar charts.

The value of this exchange is documentation of current, pre-legalization attitudes, highlighting ideas and areas of concern that both diverge and converge between the groups that surfaced.