By Paul R. La Monica, CNN.com Business
If marijuana were legal in the United States, most Americans say they would try it.
That’s according to a survey of 1,000 US consumers (as well as 1,000 more in Canada) conducted by A.T. Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm.
More than half of the survey’s respondents in both countries said they would likely try recreational cannabis if or when it becomes legal.
Marijuana will become legal in Canada on October 17. It remains illegal in the United States, although a number of states allow for its use.
The study comes at a time when many big brand name consumer companies are exploring a move into the legal cannabis business.
Blue chip consumer companies see green in weed
Constellation Brands (STZ), the owner of Corona, has a more than $4 billion stake in cannabis company Canopy Growth (CGC).
During an earnings conference call with analysts last week, Constellation CEO Robert Sands said the decision to invest in the cannabis business was an “offensive move” as opposed to a defensive one.
Sands said Constellation originally got involved with Canopy to develop drinks but that as the deal progressed, “it became evident to us that the whole market, all channels, all forms, is going to be explosive.”
Brewer Molson Coors (TAP) is also getting into the cannabis market. It has a joint venture in Canada to develop non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages.
Coca-Cola (KO) said last month that it is “closely watching” the cannabis sector as rumors swirled about it looking to partner with Canada’s Aurora Cannabis on a beverage that would have CBD, a non-psychoactive component in marijuana, as an ingredient.
And the chief financial officer of Pepsi (PEP) recently said during an earnings conference call with analysts that it has looked into the cannabis industry, even though it has no current plans to get into the business while marijuana is still illegal in the US.
T he beverage industry isn’t the only potential beneficiary.
According to the survey, 76% said they would use legal cannabis-infused products for therapeutic reasons.
Nearly a quarter indicated they’d try recreational cannabis via skincare products like lotions, creams and lip balms.
And 41% of the participants said they’d be more likely to try recreational cannabis through food, slightly higher than the 39% of those surveyed who said they would smoke it.
Randy Burt, a partner in the consumer goods and retail practice of A.T. Kearney, said the increased interest in cannabis on the part of big business makes sense considering the results of his firm’s survey.
After all, nearly 40% of the participants said they would have an improved perception of a company if it were to become involved in the cannabis business.
“It seems like there would be little backlash if companies introduced products with CBD,” Burt said. “Consumer companies have to factor in the potential risk to their reputation and brand name but there may be less risk than once thought.”
“It could be very smart for consumer companies to be adding cannabis products to their portfolio,” Burt added. “It’s important to have a cannabis strategy.”