Entrepreneurs are known for their blue sky thinking, but when idea creation happens by entrepreneurs who are also users of cannabis, are the results better or worse?
A study by Washington State University investigated this topic and the results are due to be published in the March 2021 issue of the Journal of Business Venturing.
The researchers tested the effects of marijuana on business-idea generation, by asking 254 entrepreneurs to come up with as many new venture ideas as possible relating to virtual reality technology. Participants had just three minutes to generate ideas and select the one they believed to be their best. The ideas were then expert-evaluated for originality and feasibility. The entrepreneurs also answered questions about the extent of their business experience, passion for entrepreneurship and cannabis use patterns.
Entrepreneurs were not required to be under the influence during the test — instead the aim was to capture the effects of long term cannabis use versus non-use. To this end, researchers split participants into two groups: those who had used marijuana less than five times ever and not in the past month (non-users), and those who’d consumed it more than five times in their life and at least twice in the past month (users).
The results found that the business pitches from cannabis users were more original, but less likely to result in a practical product that could come to market.
“Beyond their innate creative aptitude, entrepreneurs may attempt to enhance their creativity [with cannabis],” the study’s authors noted. However, “despite generating more original ideas, we found that cannabis users’ ideas were less feasible.”
Cognitive effects of chronic cannabis use, which include impulsivity and free-thinking , have been shown to last for up to a month. However, this study also unpicked other variables unrelated to cannabis, that were important — in particular an entrepreneur’s passion, which had a tendency to increase creativity at the expense of feasibility, versus greater past entrepreneurial experience, which tended to increase idea feasibility but rein in creativity.
The study also found that the increased originality and decreased feasibility of cannabis users’ business ideas relative to non-users was tempered by experience — the effect was absent for cannabis-using entrepreneurs with experience of founding more than one business.
“Entrepreneurial passion for inventing appears to play a role in channelling cannabis users toward idea originality but away from idea feasibility,” according to the study. “Conversely, entrepreneurial experience appears to attenuate the positive relationship of being a cannabis user with idea originality and its negative relationship with idea feasibility.”
Because the study was merely observational, it can also not determine whether some other trait common to marijuana use, rather than the drug itself, can explains a person’s idea generation.