Cannabis Users Tend to Have Original but Impractical Business Ideas

Those starry-eyed ideas might need a reality check more often than not.
Derya Ozdemir

When cannabis makes you dream of far off places, it does so in a way that it cannot be followed most of the time, it turns out. In a first of its kind study which looked at how drug use influenced new business ideation, it was seen that cannabis use might help and hinder an entrepreneur's creativity at the same time.

The study has been published in the Journal of Business Venturing.

Cannabis in business

A total of 254 entrepreneurs participated in the study conducted by Washington State University researchers. They were separated into cannabis users and non-users, with those who were cannabis users reporting they've used the drug an average of nearly 20 times in the past month. They were also asked questions about their business experiences and passion for entrepreneurship.

The cannabis users weren't high during the experiment; however, the researchers wrote that the cognitive effects of chronic cannabis use, such as increased impulsivity and free-thinking tendencies, have been shown to last for up to a month.

In the next step, the entrepreneurs took part in a new venture ideation task and were instructed to come up with as many ideas for a new business based on VR technology as possible. 

'Head in the clouds'

After each entrepreneur identified their "best idea", a panel of experts rated the originality and feasibility of the concepts. It was seen that entrepreneurs who used cannabis generated new business ideas that were out of the box, such as a weightless, gravity-free VR workout. In general, the ideas were more original but less feasible when compared to those who do not use cannabis.

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This case of increased originality and decreased feasibility was only encountered in entrepreneurs who claimed a strong passion for exploring new business ideas. This wasn't seen in entrepreneurs who founded more than one business and also reported cannabis use.

The results show that cannabis use may have some benefits in the early brainstorming stages of the venture ideation process; however, the researchers say that a "reality-check" is needed for these ideas to become more grounded.


"Clearly there are pros and cons to using cannabis that deserve to be investigated further. As the wave of cannabis legalization continues across the country, we need to shed light on the actual effects of cannabis not only in entrepreneurship but in other areas of business as well", said Benjamin Warnick, the lead author of the study.

The authors say that there is a need for future research on how being high might influence entrepreneurs’ creativity in a randomized experiment.

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