Study: Cannabis Users’ Creativity In New Venture Ideation Depends On Their Entrepreneurial Passion And Experience

As one who has used Cannabis to inspire new heights of creativity for five decades, and who has used it to create entirely new products and product segments over four decades, I took particular interest in this new study on that very thing.

What they determined is that stoners have more-ambitious ideas informed by our passion, and that our experience in business helps quickly sort out the more feasible from the not as feasible. With both I concur, we not only see farther down the road, but we need someone to bounce those visions off of. In my case, I ignored their advice, for better or worse. For instance, literally everyone I talked to about it told me to NOT pivot from soyfoods to hemp foods.

While ultimately they were correct in the sense that it cost me dozens of millions of dollars in sunk costs as well as opportunity costs, nevertheless I was working off a different metric: progress. Thus in strict money terms I should have listened, but in terms of movement progress it was better that I didn’t, creating “Business As Activism.” That illustrates one aspect this study missed: courage. It takes courage and fearlessness to believe in your vision of What Could Be in the face of nay-sayers in your circle.

Pivoting my existing international sales and distribution network to hemp foods ultimately created hemp’s first billion-dollar segment, hemp’s first big change in 12,000 years of fiber, gave Canada 90% of their hemp business today, and provided proof-of-concept for the business model everyone uses today (selling branded shelled hempseed using natural food distributors and brokers).


It also helped pave the way for marijuana and hemp legalization years later by normalizing legitimate discussion of Cannabis in food and business pages of thousands of newspapers and magazines, as well as the word HEMP and a neon-green leaf on thousands of store shelves in the US and Canada.


The ability to connect seemingly disparate concepts not only created vegan foods masquerading as typical American favorites like Le Tofu ice cream and TofuRella cheese, but also “HempNut: the Soybean of the New Millennium,” FDA-legal claims on hemp foods, hemp protein powder, hemp food entrepreneur development programs, the first vegan restaurant in California, Cannabinoid Facts label, “Medicinal” Hemp, Nobacco, CannaSearch, new nomenclature, and more. The Art of Business as a canvas for personal expression.

The evolutionary imperative of Cannabis is clear: it informed the biggest and most-creative entrepreneurial boom in history, some of the best inventions, products, art, literature, and music, and such practical early benefits as improved night-vision for fishing, spirituality, less inflammation and pain, and better mood.

Head In The Clouds? Cannabis Users’ Creativity In New Venture Ideation Depends On Their Entrepreneurial Passion And Experience

New venture ideation is critical to the entrepreneurial process. To generate creative ideas, some entrepreneurs turn to cannabis, proposing its benefits. However, extant research has not validated such claims. Using a new venture ideation task, we explore differences between cannabis users‘ and non-users‘ creativity in new venture ideation by assessing the originality and feasibility of their ideas. We theorized and found that cannabis users generate new venture ideas that are more original, but less feasible, compared to non-users. Further building upon creativity research emphasizing that motivation and knowledge shape creative thinking, we theorize that the cognitive effects of being a cannabis user on idea originality and feasibility are influenced by entrepreneurial passion for inventing—which reflects motivation to explore new venture ideas—and entrepreneurial experience (i.e., founding experience). Consistent with our theorizing, 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. Our study contributes to the literatures on new venture ideation, entrepreneurial passion, entrepreneurial experience, and cannabis users’ creativity by providing an integrated perspective of cognitive, motivational, and experiential factors that drive entrepreneurs’ creativity
Given the joint influence of motivation and knowledge in creative thinking, we theorize that cannabis users’ increased idea originality and decreased idea feasibility compared to non-users depends on their entrepreneurial passion for inventing and their entrepreneurial experience (i.e., founding experience). Entrepreneurial passion for inventing motivates exploration of novel (i.e., original) venture ideas.
Research has further established that chronic cannabis use is associated with lasting effects on cognition and structural changes in the brain (Filbey et al., 2014; Gilman et al., 2014), suggesting that cannabis use may engender enduring cognitive effects conducive to creative thinking that extend beyond periods of intoxication.
Indeed, a meta-analysis has found that creative people tend to be more impulsive (Feist, 1998) and reductions in inhibition increase the number and originality of ideas in divergent thinking tasks (Radel et al., 2015).
Scholars have also found that cannabis users demonstrate a greater ability to connect seemingly disconnected words compared to non-users (LaFrance and Cuttler, 2017) and identify associations and patterns more easily (Morgan et al., 2010). Such pattern recognition has been identified as a means by which entrepreneurs identify entrepreneurial opportunities (Baron and Ensley, 2006), with highly original ideas often surfacing through creative combinations at the nexus of disparate domains or concepts (Grégoire et al., 2010; Johansson, 2004; Ward, 2004).
As Alex Osborn, who popularized the term brainstorming recommended, “The wilder the idea, the better; it is easier to tame down than to think up” (Osborn, 1953: 156).
Whereas extant work on entrepreneurial experience has generally supported a positive relationship with opportunity recognition (e.g., Grégoire et al., 2010; Gruber et al., 2008; Shane, 2000; Shepherd and DeTienne, 2005), we did not find a direct relationship of entrepreneurial experience with idea originality or idea feasibility.
Our study also sheds light on the potential downsides of entrepreneurial experience, demonstrating that higher entrepreneurial experience weakens cannabis users’ idea originality. Experienced entrepreneurs tend to make decisions by relying on heuristics that are frugal such that they ignore information and forgo optimization (i.e., finding the best solution) in favor of satisficing—choosing the first option that exceeds an acceptable threshold (Gigerenzer, 2008; Simon and March, 1976). These heuristics increase decision-making speed (Shepherd et al., 2015), but can also lead to cognitive biases– “thought processes that involve erroneous inference or assumptions” (Forbes, 2005: 623).

  1. Conclusion
    New venture ideation is a creative process that provides a critical impetus to entrepreneurship. Beyond their innate creative aptitude, entrepreneurs may attempt to enhance their creativity. Despite generating more original ideas, we found that cannabis users’ ideas were less feasible. Furthermore, we found that entrepreneurial passion for inventing acts as a “switch” that magnifies both the creative benefits and detriments of chronic cannabis use, whereas entrepreneurial experience blunts these relationships. Our study thus sheds light on the benefits and detriments of cannabis use as a means of enhancing creativity and provides an avenue for future research to consider other factors that may influence entrepreneurs’ creativity.”

Citation: Warnick, B. J., Kier, A. S., LaFrance, E. M., & Cuttler, C. (2021) Head in the clouds? Cannabis users‘ creativity in new venture ideation depends on their entrepreneurial passion and experience. Journal of Business Venturing, (36)2, 106088.

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