Oct 3 / 2019

A new frontier for medical cannabis regulation

Exploring the lucrative medical cannabis markets

Back in the early days of the 20th century, alcohol prohibition was instituted to combat the scourge of a beer-guzzling population bent on ruin.  Needless to say, things have changed in the past 86 years. Interestingly, the prohibition of cannabis can be directly traced back to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner, Harry J. Anslinger. At the onset of his reign in 1930, Anslinger ran a crusade to instil the fear of God in those Americans who did not share his prohibitionist stance on alcohol.

Unfortunately for him, his tenure as the country’s anti-booze czar was short-lived. After only three years on the job, prohibition had been repealed. Anslinger became a crusader without a cause. Not wishing to lose his political muscle as the country’s leading arbiter of moral rectitude, Anslinger found another evil in which to unfurl his moral banner: cannabis. Anslinger went to work building his case against weed. He initiated a PR campaign erroneously describing marijuana as a dangerous and highly addictive narcotic that incited users to violence and insanity. He orchestrated an oratory that would have done himself proud in a rendition of the song “Trouble in River City” that was performed in The Music Man. Playing the role of Harold Hill, the charismatic Pied Piper of marching bands, Robert Preston laments the poor state of the youth in the bucolic town.

 Hey Mary Jane, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Fast forward to 2019, and we find a much different, albeit greener landscape. To date, 33 states have made medical marijuana legal. This sea change in attitude has created a stampede of pent-up demand for the CBD and THC forms of cannabis. The Indica and Sativa flowers are now being dispensed through state-licensed facilities to treat numerous ailments ranging from anxiety to migraines. CBD has been added to everything from dog treats to topical creams. While many medical claims have not been confirmed, folks are flocking to dispensaries to obtain the herb while CBD enhanced products are showing up on store shelves and online with greater prevalence.

Botanical extracts are being introduced into a wide iteration of edibles. Vaping oil has also become a common delivery method. Typically, state legislatures that are approving medical cannabis are initiating the legalisation process for recreational use by permitting medical usage first. Even several presidential candidates are advocating for its decriminalisation nationally.  What’s driving this new-found appreciation for medical marijuana? The simple answer is money. Big money. Financial prognosticators are predicting that the industry will be worth $5bn to $1tn in the near future. Globally, cannabis is becoming one of the hottest investments around, giving the phrase “smoke-filled rooms” a whole new meaning.

 Money Talks

In the states where medical cannabis is legal, it is still not a simple matter of walking into a dispensary, and ordering a bag. A prescription is required from a licensed medical doctor. However, every medical doctor is predisposed to write a script for the substance. While each state provides a doctor with a list of medical conditions that he may prescribe, others are hesitant to write any prescription to be treated by medical cannabis. One concern they have is that their practice may be tainted by a negative reaction among the public as being an easy conduit for distribution of the cannabis. Additionally, many of the systems associated with medical cannabis that it allegedly treats is not substantiated in medical journals.

Still, much needs to be accomplished to bring the burgeoning market completely out of the shadows. Nation- wide legalisation will open the market to traditional investment revenues and permit access to financial institutions such as banks and  V.C.s’. Right now, dispensaries cannot open a bank account or use credit cards. But, after all, money talks and right now the industry is articulating in a very loud voice. Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching.

The Medical Cannabiz World Summit will take place from the 4th to 5th November at the Intercontinental, St Julian’s, Malta, to be followed by the inaugural launch of the Medical Cannabiz World Asia Summit which will be held in Bangkok on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2020 at the Centara Grand Hotel.

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