The Future of Cannabis: How Big Data Offers a Competitive Edge


By Staff Writer

If you are in any way involved with some sort of social media platform, you have likely seen a post or two about cannabis. Although it has always been a popular substance, it seems the use of cannabis has become normalized in the last few years (Hathaway et al., 2018).

Recent legalizations and publicized awareness have led to an overall shift in attitude. People are less likely to force judgment on users, and consequently, people feel much less pressured to keep their habits a secret.

In fact, it seems that people feel encouraged now more than ever to share their experiences on cannabis use. Aside from a considerable impact on spreading awareness, these practices also have a powerful influence on the industry itself.

Each time something is posted or interacted with, it becomes a data that diffuses throughout the Internet. This excessive amount of raw information is known as something called ‘big data.’

In terms of the cannabis industry, this can offer critical intel. Essentially, you can get massive volumes of information surrounding topics focused on by any cannabis-related media.

This can be used to update business executions or offer valuable insight for doctors looking to offer the best treatments to their patients.

While this data is mostly public, you can’t work with big data in its initial form. You need to understand a little bit about analytics software before you can extract any meaningful information from these datasets.

Big data is a fancy term for a vast amount of information that cannot be conventionally analyzed at this surface (Sagiroglu & Sinanc, 2013). Due to heightened variety and complexity, difficulties arise in storing the data and being able to interpret any statistical analysis successfully.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to extract some meaningful results from datasets, though. The field of big data analytics offers a solution for processing such information.

Once transformed and analyzed into something you can read, it has the potential to offer much more than your typical means of data collection. There is a reason why big data technologies are booming.

More information means that you will be able to get a deeper understanding. Having this volume of information is a huge advantage— one which could give you a competitive edge.

In fact, some experts argue that this could be a deciding factor for the success of cannabis industries in the future. Many companies are already using it (Caulkins et al., 2018).

These mass datasets have hidden patterns and correlations that may define the future of cannabis use.

Theoretically, big data analysts don’t have a limit on what they could go through. This means you can get information from any relevant media you find online.

Blog posts, online articles, videos, surveys, apps, and even podcasts can be converted into data points, which can then be used to learn more about cannabis in general.

Every piece of information can be useful, including product reviews, demographics, applications, etc. The results from these analyses can have a direct impact on cannabis businesses around the nation.

By learning more about people’s experiences with cannabis, everyone (from doctors to entrepreneurs) can optimize their plans to fit society’s needs better.

Consider these potential discoveries:

  • Consumer Trends

One of the more obvious, desired finds is customer insight. If you want to have a successful business, you need to understand these patterns in order to market properly.

Analyzing trends in consumer data can help you unearth invaluable information you can use to enhance customer experience and grow as a company.

In the hands of the right marketing strategist, companies will be able to determine how and what to market. You can use this information to invest in the right product, identify your target audience, and possibly gain a better understanding of why certain trends exist.

  • Largescale Testimonials

Peer-reviewed, clinical studies are arguably the most important resource for information involving cannabis use. Unfortunately, this data is somewhat limited— partly due to the criminal status cannabis still holds in some areas (even for medical use). Many cannabis users document their experiences online, offering countless reviews that can always be useful. When a significant number of users report specific effects from cannabis use, the argument could be made for the importance of continued studies. Highlighting the benefits that can be supported through these clinical studies can help promote awareness as well as contribute to attitudes and arguments being made when determining legal proceedings.

  • Market Information

While there is a lot that can be gained when researching the consumer end of the transaction, learning more about your competitors can help keep you at the forefront of the industry. In addition to customer demographics and behaviors, learning about other companies can teach you what works (and what doesn’t). It also helps your company stay on top of important marketing insights that keep you relevant in the cycle of supply and demand. You can have a great company, but it won’t be successful if there is a better option out there.

Now that we’ve illustrated the advantages of big data analytics, you need to learn how to get there. For starters, it is highly recommended to seek expert advice.


This data is only as accurate as the tools used to retrieve it. It would be best if you made sure data is analyzed correctly; otherwise, you can get some pretty inaccurate interpretations.

Take this classic example of the post hoc fallacy:

You are an ice cream man and want to analyze your sales. After some extensive collection, you discover a positive correlation between shark attacks and ice cream consumption.

Is it a good idea to conclude that sharks encourage ice cream sales? Not at all! There are countless other factors ignored, such as tourism or the local temperature.

While this is more obvious, it is very easy for an inexperienced analyst to draw inaccurate conclusions that don’t “jump out” as wrong. This leads to ineffective campaigns that waste time and money.

Still, it is always a great idea to stay informed about the process. Several different components are essential to master in order to get the necessary data to be illustrated in a manner you can use.

Big data analysts are masters of data aggregation, management, metrics generation, and presentation.

In other words, they know what data to keep, how to organize it, and how to read the results in a way you could explain to the targeted audience.

It’s not as simple as an ANOVA on an e-mail survey, but like it or not, this is the future of market research.

Both technology and the cannabis industry are growing markets that are not going anywhere. Embracing big data analytics into your marketing strategy is a step in the right direction to thrive in the cannabis industry of 2020.


  1. International Journal of Drug Policy
  2. “It’s Really No Big Deal”
  3. Big data: A Review