To Keep New Customers Coming Back the Cannabis Industry Has to Perfect Dosing
A Day Dreamers cannabis-infused peppermint chocolate bar sounds enticing. Even more appealing, it’s a bit smaller than a typical Hershey’s bar. However, while one wouldn’t think twice about eating a Hershey’s in one sitting, consuming an entire Day Dreamers bar is another story. One Dreamers bar contains 720 milligrams of THC; the recommended dose for new consumers is 1 to 2.5 mg.
This poses a challenge to the cannabis industry, since newbies tend to enter the cannabis space through edibles and beverages. In Colorado, for example, sales of edibles increased at a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to Arcview Market Research. New customers are expected to drive legal cannabis spending from $12.2 billion last year to $16.9 billion this year, according to Arcview and BDS Analytics. For the uninitiated, it’s not intuitive that just one-fourth of a single square of a chocolate bar can have more than three times what Colorado considers a “single” dose (10 mg) of cannabis.
So it’s vital to get dosing right, because cannabis can be tricky. The right dose induces relaxation or provides a mellow high. The wrong dose can result in anxiety, dizziness, vomiting and a bad first impression that could be very costly to the industry: Anyone who ends up uncomfortably high for eight hours after their first cannabis-infused chocolate probably won’t be eager to try again, nor will they recommend the product to their friends and family.
That’s why cannabis sales professionals must educate their customers about using the correct dose. Perhaps the most common problem faced by newbies is cannabis’ delayed effects when eaten, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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Inhaled (smoked or vaped) cannabis takes effect almost immediately, hits peak impact in about 20 minutes and tapers off within two to three hours. But ingested cannabis can take as long as two hours to be felt, with the “high” not peaking until two to four hours after ingestion. Inexperienced consumers may continue eating a product when they don’t feel an impact immediately -- or even after an hour or two -- leading to adverse effects like anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. Ingested cannabis produces a longer effect than smoking or vaping, so the consequences of a wrong dose last longer.
Further compounding the problem, a consumer’s gender, body fat, eating habits and metabolism are significant factors -- the right dose for a 250-pound man may be vastly different than it is for a woman who weighs 150 pounds, so their recommended serving sizes will be different, too. Consumers who don’t closely read labels can easily ingest more than recommended. While no one expects sales experts to collect every person’s size, weight and diet at the door, they can certainly recommend an appropriate dose by spending time talking to customers.
They can also explain that choosing cannabis is not as simple as ordering wine or whiskey. Because extractions differ in concentrations of THC and CBD according to the specific plant or method used, producers have difficulty maintaining a consistent dose among batches made at different times. That makes it hard for consumers to depend on a brand for a desired effect or a tailored dose.
The testing used to certify concentrations in products can also be wonky. Scientists examining reports last year from the six biggest testing labs in the state of Washington found that cannabis measurements varied widely from lab to lab, and even among products from the same brand, according to an article they published in the journal Nature. Another study from the Netherlands showed that more than half of the products tested contained incorrect information on the product label about the concentration of THC or CBD.
That lack of consistency makes it hard for consumers to judge how much cannabis they are ingesting. It’s also hard to build brand loyalty if you’re promising an invigorating, “cerebral” high, but the wrong dose puts people to sleep.
With edibles expected to be more than a $4 billion market in just the U.S. and Canada by 2022, the race is on to be the first company that figures out how to reliably standardize dosing. In the meantime, the industry can work together to get the right information out to the cannabis-curious.