It must have been around 35 years ago that I filled in a survey questionnaire, anonymously, on the subject of cannabis and health. After the obvious opening question, “Have you ever used cannabis?” came the follow-up: “Do you think it did you any harm?” To which my honest answer was: “Yes. It got me hooked on tobacco.”
Back in what then already seemed distant days, sprinkling small pieces of dried resin among the tobacco in a (usually super-sized) roll-up was the normal way to do what we generally referred to as “dope”. At least it was in my student circles.
Smoking weed without tobacco was something other people sometimes did. Hash brownies or “high tea” were a rare treat. Cannabis drinks, oils, commercially manufactured cannabis gummies and other edibles – all those marketed products that are the essential topic of CannIntelligence – were as yet undreamt of.
A few serious scientists might have known the initials THC, CBD and some of the rest, but for us mere users the idea that dope could be broken down chemically into psychoactive and non-psychoactive constituents, for example, simply never entered our heads.
And as for vaping cannabis oils or anything else, that would have seemed as bizarre a sci-fi fantasy as carrying around in your pocket a device on which you could watch movies or see someone the other side of the world while you chatted with them. You’d have had to be really stoned to dream up anything as far out as that.
But I could tell a quarter-ounce of sandy Lebanese resin (blond Leb) from a thumbnail-sized piece of oily Moroccan black at 20 paces, and pretty much tell the weight of each by eye.
The key question
So yes, it was cannabis joints that lured me into smoking. Once tipped out into the world of work, the cannabis was easy enough to give up. The tobacco not so much.
Which is where the work that Tamarind Intelligence now does comes in. Because wherever we each stand individually on the specific products whose regulatory and market conditions we study – e-cigarettes (ECigIntelligence), other novel alternatives to smoking (TobaccoIntelligence), or cannabis, its derivatives and associated products (CannIntelligence) – we’re very clear and aligned on one point. Smoking tobacco is bad for you.
Beyond that, individuals in the company may or may not vape, use heated tobacco, nicotine pouches or cannabinoids – some even smoke – but collectively we remain agnostic on the key question of whether each of the products we track is good or bad. Our unbiased objectivity is key.
Over the seven years I’ve been involved, I know of one outstanding job candidate who opted in the end not to join what he perceived as a propagandist for Big Tobacco. He was wrong about that. If he’d been right I wouldn’t have wanted this job either.
Yes, we have clients in the tobacco industry, and in the cannabis industry. We also have clients in government departments, regulatory bodies, research institutes and health groups.
Our bread and butter comes from researching and sharing the facts objectively, not backing one side or the other. It’s why we don’t carry advertising. And it’s why we try to put opinions of all shades – including those of our clients – to the test.
The political colour of grass
Opinions, of whatever colour and however firmly believed, may come from places those who hold them wouldn’t recognise.
It doesn’t hold true everywhere – there are parts of the world where both vaping and cannabis are considered evil – but in the US there’s a very clear party-political trend. There will always be exceptions, but as a general rule Republicans and Republican administrations are strict on cannabis and liberal on vaping, while Democrats are just the other way around.
Those who grew up reading The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and listening to Bob Marley still fundamentally think cannabis is cool, even if they have aged into comfortable homeowners who just want wellness products to ease their aching joints and help them sleep.
If they’ve read a little more deeply or listened to The Dead Kennedys they may tell you soberly how hemp only became demonised because it threatened to be too strong a competitor to cotton.
While those who grew up in suits (and maybe had cotton money in the family), or perhaps in blue-collar overalls or military fatigues, see everything through different shades.
Our core principle
OK, those may be stereotypes, but on both sides it’s all about social history and background, not science or logic. And who knows how it may change as cannabis moves away from its association with the counter-culture and becomes more and more the preserve of big business?
The rhetoric can be so overheated – from both the pros and the antis – that it’s sometimes difficult to keep a cool head on the subject. A cool head that tells you there’s some merit in the arguments put forward by the other side (whichever side that happens to be).
It’s the core principle of Tamarind Intelligence to take both sides seriously and neither as gospel.
And in case you’re wondering, I managed to give up smoking 35 years ago, without the aid of any cessation tool. Though I very occasionally still get a passing hankering for a pipe, I’ve never been tempted to try vaping or heated tobacco. A nice cannabis gummy, though, might be just the thing…
– Aidan Semmens CannIntelligence staff