Category Archives: Marketing Research

What’s in a Name? A Cannabis Strain Word Cloud

The number of cannabis strains reviewed on Leafly exceeds 2,200. As amazing as this is to those unfamiliar with the industry, even more amazing is the number of new strains added weekly. In April, information on 2,232 strains was web-scrapped from the Leafly site. For marketers, the branding of cannabis deserves further investigation. The purpose of this post is to start that conversation.

Before exploring branding, the initial question is what type of cannabis do consumers prefer – hybrid, indica or sativa? To determine the answer to this question requires us to assume that the total number of strains available reflects consumer preference. While this assumption may not be true, it serves as a surrogate for attributes that consumers find appealing.

Based on the above, and given the data available, it appears that consumers prefer hybrid strains. Of the 2,232 strains listed on Leafly in April, 1,128 are hybrid (50.54 percent), 665 are indica (29.79 percent) and 439 are sativa (19.67 percent).

What are the most popular brand names or components of brand names for existing strains? To find out, we developed a Word Cloud. Word Clouds are visual representations of text data with the size of the text indicating the frequency of word use. Thus, larger words in the cloud are used more frequently. All existing strain names were input into a Word Cloud generator and the resulting graphic is presented below.

Some results were expected, some were a surprise. Prior to this analysis, the researchers didn’t know that 110 strain names began with the word Bhang. Other popular strain branding names include OG, Kush, Haze, White, Purple, Diesel, Blue, Sour and Skunk. Colors, fruits, tastes and/or effects dominate current branding efforts.

One issue of concern is that strain naming isn’t standardized. Thus, it’s possible for the same strain to have two different names depending on where and when it was developed. For instance, LA Cheese (strain name in Amsterdam) is known as Confidential Cheese on Leafly. Until a master list of strains that includes genetic testing exists, there is no guarantee that what you’re purchasing is what is being advertised.

Cannabis branding, both for medical and recreational purposes, is an exciting area of study for marketers. As the industry expands, consistency in branding becomes more critical and important.


The Top 20 Cannabis Strains as Rated on Leafly for 4.20

What better way to celebrate 4.20, our first in Massachusetts with legal recreational cannabis, than combining one’s passion for statistics and fast-growing businesses? I wish that I could take full credit for using the statistical software package R to web-scrape the Leafly site ( in order to identify the top 20 cannabis strains for 4.20.17, but that honor goes to one of my statistically adept progeny.  He supplied me with the consumer ratings of the 2,232 cannabis strains listed on the site.

The methodology was simple:  Identify the top 20 strains, according to consumer ratings. To minimize small sample bias, strains with fewer than 100 reviews were eliminated. Doing so reduced the number of strains from 2,232 to 437.  The top 20 strains for this year’s 4.20 celebration are presented below. Overall, Gelato is the top rated strain on Leafly, according to consumers. Of the top 20, 14 are Hybrid, five are Indica and one is Sativa. Thus, a clear consumer preference (70 percent) exists for Hybrid strains.

Strain Name Category Ratings Stars
Gelato Hybrid 357 4.755
Blue Cookies Hybrid 265 4.75
Papa’s OG Indica 113 4.73
Alien Rock Candy Hybrid 135 4.72
Purple Hindu Kush Indica 112 4.72
Superglue Hybrid 141 4.71
Khalifa Kush Hybrid 488 4.68
Orange Cookies Hybrid 135 4.68
Gorilla Glue #4 Hybrid 3,113 4.675
24k Gold Hybrid 110 4.665
Quantum Kush Sativa 185 4.66
Dogwalker OG Hybrid 176 4.66
Sugar Shack Hybrid 101 4.655
Death Bubba Indica 186 4.65
Kimbo Kush Hybrid 120 4.645
Sunset Sherbet Hybrid 644 4.64
Rainbow Hybrid 109 4.64
Blue God Indica 131 4.635
Paris OG Indica 208 4.62
Middlefork Hybrid 119 4.62

Did your top choice make the list?

The strain with the highest number of ratings on the Leafly site is Blue Dream, with 12,171. How amazing is that? Of the ten most rated strains, five are Hybrid, three are Sativa and two are Indica. Once again, Hybrid strains dominate.

Strain Name Category Ratings Stars
Blue Dream Hybrid 12,171 4.395
Sour Diesel Sativa 7,046 4.38
Girl Scout Cookies Hybrid 6,217 4.485
Green Crack Sativa 5,539 4.325
OG Kush Hybrid 4,837 4.355
Granddaddy Purple Indica 3,980 4.42
White Widow Hybrid 3,717 4.355
Jack Herer Sativa 3,611 4.4
Gorilla Glue #4 Hybrid 3,113 4.675
Bubba Kush Indica 3,007 4.305

Enjoy your 420 celebration, preferably with one of the top rated cannabis strains according to your friends at Leafly.


The Case for Business Schools to Focus on the U.S. Cannabis Industry

Like it or not, the U.S. marijuana industry is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 25 percent over the next 5 years (Forbes, January 3, 2017). Estimates of gross industry sales (medical plus recreational) by 2020 range from $11 billion (Marijuana Business Factbook 2016) to $44 billion (CBS News, March 18, 2016) with the general consensus falling in the $20-25 billion range assuming that no additional states pass medical marijuana and/or legal recreational marijuana laws (a very conservative assumption, at best).

To date, 28 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia (29 total) have legalized Medical Marijuana. The percent of U.S. citizens living in areas with Medical Marijuana is 63.49, as illustrated in the table below. The average number of medical marijuana patients per 1000 people is 8.795 with a minimum of .1 per 1000 (Delaware) and a maximum of 19.8 per 1000 (Colorado) according to

The Medical Marijuana States and Populations (March 2017)

State Population (2017)
Alaska 741,204
Arizona 7,026,629
Arkansas 3,000,942
California 39,849,872
Colorado 5,658,546
Connecticut 3,583,134
Delaware 965,866
Florida 21,002,678
Hawaii 1,454,295
Illinois 12,815,607
Louisiana 4,714,192
Maine 1,327,472
Maryland 6,068,511
Massachusetts 6,873,018
Michigan 9,935,116
Minnesota 5,554,532
Montana 1,052,343
Nevada 2,995,973
New Hampshire 1,335,832
New Jersey 8,996,351
New Mexico 2,084,193
New York 19,889,657
North Dakota 790,701
Ohio 11,646,273
Oregon 4,144,527
Pennsylvania 12,819,975
Rhode Island 1,059,080
Vermont 624,592
Washington 7,384,721
Washington, D.C. 697,012
Total 206,092,844

Legal recreational marijuana is available in eight states plus the District of Columbia, covering 21.46 percent of the U.S. population.

The Legal Recreational Marijuana States and Populations

State Population (2017)
Alaska 741,204
California 39,849,872
Colorado 5,658,546
Maine 1,327,472
Massachusetts 6,873,018
Nevada 2,995,973
Oregon 4,144,527
Washington 7,384,721
Washington, D.C. 697,012
Total 69,672,345

Based on estimates developed by New Frontier Data, as reported in The Cannabist (February 22, 2017), my projections for medical marijuana sales and legal recreational marijuana sales for the 2017 through 2020 period are presented below. These projections are limited by two broad assumptions: 1) no additional states will pass medical or legal recreational laws in this period, and 2) state populations will remain constant for the period 2017-2020.

Medical and Legal Recreational Sales 2017-2020 ($US Billions)

Year Medical Legal Recreational Total ($Billions)
2017 6.11 3.74 9.85
2018 7.95 5.39 13.34
2019 10.35 7.76 18.11
2020 13.46 11.18 24.64

During the period 2017 through 2020, medical marijuana (MMJ) sales will grow from $6.11 billion to $13.46 billion annually. The average total of sales per capita for MMJ, given the assumptions above, will be $65.31 by 2020.

For legal recreational marijuana, sales are expected to grow from $3.74 billion in 2017 to $11.18 billion in 2020 for average sales per capita of $160.74. Total gross industry sales (MMJ plus Recreational) are expected to grow from $9.85 billion in 2017 to $24.64 billion in 2020 equating to $119.56 sales per capita in the combined MMJ and Recreational markets.

Graphically, the two tables below present total sales and percent of total sales trends for 2017 through 2020. Sales will reach categorical equilibrium (50/50) just after 2021.

Finally, estimates of total industry employment by 2020 range from 255,000 (The Cannabist) to 300,000 (High Times). Thus, the average expectation is that 277,500 industry jobs will be created by 2020. Based on my estimate of total industry sales in 2020, this translates into 1 job created per $88,793 in total industry sales.

It is time for business schools to engage and embrace the marijuana industry as an economic catalyst. My colleagues and I are developing an active research agenda to focus on consumer habits and preferences in the nascent legal recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts, expected to reach combined sales (MMJ and Recreational) of over $1 billion by 2020. Join us as we embrace this opportunity.