Study Shows Marijuana Can Both Help and Hinder Start-Up Businesses

Study Shows Marijuana Can Both Help and Hinder Start-Up Businesses

A recent first-of-its-kind study harbors both good and bad news for start-up entrepreneurs who use marijuana – while it may help inspire bold and innovative business ideas, those ideas are often not very realistic in practice.

The study, courtesy of researchers at Washington State University, assessed the business ideas generated by both users and nonusers of marijuana on the basis of originality and feasibility, and what they discovered may sound familiar to those who believe they’ve had a business epiphany when under the influence of cannabis.

“Despite generating more original ideas, we found that cannabis users’ ideas were less feasible,” the researchers conclude.

For their analysis, the researchers considered the background of the entrepreneurs participating in the study, in particular their experience and passion. Those deemed especially passionate exhibited heightened creativity, at the cost of feasibility, while those with an established entrepreneurial background tended to be realistic but have less original ideas.

As the researchers put it, “the increased originality and decreased feasibility of cannabis users’ ideas surfaced to the extent that they had entrepreneurial passion for inventing and diminished commensurate with their entrepreneurial experience.”

For their analysis, the researchers invited 254 entrepreneurs to present “as many new venture ideas as possible” spurred by virtual reality prompts. They were given three minutes to brainstorm ideas then asked to choose the one they thought is best. That idea was then evaluated by two “expert raters” for its originality and feasibility. And the researchers believe the findings are in line with their hypothesis that users and nonusers of marijuana arrive at business ideas differently from one another.

“Cannabis users are more impulsive, disinhibited, and better at identifying relationships among seemingly disparate concepts,” the study reads. “However, these differences and cannabis users’ diminished executive functioning likely detracts from idea feasibility.”

The researchers did not, however, ask the marijuana-using participants to come up with their ideas after consuming cannabis. Users were instead distinguished from nonusers as those who’d consumed cannabis at least five times in their life and a minimum of two times in the past month. The researchers note that such a distinction is somewhat arbitrary as, unlike with alcohol, “scholars have yet to reach a consensus on what constitutes a cannabis user versus a non-user.”

Based on this criteria, 120 participants – close to half – were considered cannabis users. Other variables the researchers attempted to control for include gender, education, age and technological familiarity.

Though the study suggests marijuana use plays a significant role in generating original ideas, as unfeasible as many may be, the entrepreneur’s business experience and passion for innovation are strong determining factors.

“Cannabis users’ diminished idea feasibility compared to non-users was significant in those with low entrepreneurial experience, but not in those with high entrepreneurial experience,” the researchers wrote, while “cannabis users’ lower idea feasibility was significant at high entrepreneurial passion for inventing but not low entrepreneurial passion for inventing.”

The idea that cannabis use inspires creative thinking is, of course, not a new one. Artists have long claimed to gain insights and ideas for their work by using cannabis, as well as other mind-altering drugs. And it’s not unheard of in the business world either, as the researchers acknowledge in the case of Apple magnate Steve Jobs who said marijuana helped him feel “relaxed and creative.”

But moderation, as always, is key.

“Regular cannabis use is associated with numerous detrimental effects, such as the potential for dependence and addiction, risk of motor vehicle accidents, mental and respiratory health problems, as well as memory and other cognitive impairments,” the study’s authors caution.

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on, and