Jim MacRae: A Legend of Cannabis Data Analysis

By Jamie Toth and Jeff Rawson

Even though cannabis science is young, it has already collected legends. Let’s take a moment today and review one of the most inspirational: Jim MacRae. MacRae’s work has inspired many of us who have ventured into cannabis science and analytics, so let’s dive into some of his analyses to see just why.

MacRae spent years exploring Washington’s cannabis market on his website Straight Line Analytics, posting a variety of in-depth analyses to his Hi-Blog there.

In his first blog post (in 2015!), he explored county-level retail markups which he followed quite quickly with a store-level retail markup graph. Within his posts he cited his sources, and lauded the peers whose work helped him create his analyses. Champion level work, straight out of the gate!

It wasn’t long until he started working through lab data, initially starting with moisture testing, and just a month later he started exploring THC potency results. He started to dig into the numbers, exploring the ‘truthiness’ of the results, in work that has inspired many of us exploring percentage inflation. He responded to comments, went in depth on how he was arriving at his figures, and showed data analysts in cannabis science where the bar should be – all in 2015.

In mid-2016 he began seeking the notice of patients by posting Patient Service Announcements about his findings, exploring his analyses in depth, and explaining the concepts of friendly labs while also showing patients how to become more educated consumers. He produced lists attempting to uplift those in the space that were treating patients well, and encouraging patients to shop smart.

He didn’t stop his PSA’s there – posting one on Knowing Products and Fair Trade Retailers. He gave an overview of privacy and data exposure. He created an explainer about where patients’ cannabis dollars went. He also told consumers to be aware of who was testing their cannabis far before ‘it was cool.’

His repeated analyses on THC percentage inflation showed a steadfast determination to both unveil and understand the problem at hand.

He consistently centered medical patients in his work, seeking to protect consumers from bad actors in the field while educating everyone on what the data from Washington was saying – and what it could teach all of us. He was diligent in contacting regulators with actionable suggestions on how to protect consumers.

He didn’t just look at percentage results, either. He did absolutely groundbreaking work on … well, the ground. He explored heavy metals. He was ahead of every curve on the pesticide issue.

He also didn’t stop at just Washington – he explored results in Nevada.

Everyone who analyzes data from cannabis testing owes a debt to Jim MacRae’s pioneering work. While he discontinued regular posting on his blog in August of 2023, his impact on this field can not be understated. His work will serve as an inspiration and guidepost for years to come.

Thank you, Dr. Jim!