Robert Kane: Integrity Needed to Make 2012 Great Year for Medical Cannabis

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

By Robert Kane

With January on the horizon, the year of the Water Dragon is almost upon us, according to the Chinese astrological calendar. It’s supposed to be a year brimming with possibilities and the potential for good fortune – but also one defined by unpredictability and a great deal of change. And that’s exactly what I expect for the medical marijuana industry in 2012. It could turn out to be one of the best years ever for medical cannabis, though there will certainly be a fair share of challenges and unexpected twists.

For the sector to thrive in 2012, it must fully embrace one simple concept: integrity. By that I mean professionals in all corners of the industry must work continuously to convince the public that we really are in this business to help people – not to make huge profits or get high.

Integrity is defined as the adherence to moral and ethical principles, soundness of moral character and honesty. It’s been sorely lacking in our industry (not to mention in our country as a whole). Voters have passed medical marijuana bills across the nation, hoping to help suffering patients get the medicine they need. But before they know it, dispensaries start sprouting like weeds in their neighborhoods, filling the streets with depictions of pot leaves and targeting recreational users with ads that have nothing to do with the medicinal benefits of marijuana.

That must change. People must also stop faking injuries and illnesses to get medical marijuana cards. MMJ businesses must pay their taxes. Dispensaries must stop giving strains cutesy names that sound like something on the shot menu of a college bar.
These practices sabotage the whole industry, and in the end it’s the patients who suffer the most. Behave like you care and act like it’s medicine, not just a way to get high. That’s what integrity in this business is all about.

We also must do a better job of spreading the word about marijuana’s medicinal benefits. It’s important to help people realize that medical marijuana is about easing pain and alleviating suffering. Think about your own situation. How and when did you first learn about the benefits of medical cannabis? I’m not referring to smoking or getting high for the first time, nor am I speaking about taking your first bong hit. I’m talking about the first time you realized that cannabis is a medicine as opposed to just a recreational drug. We need to share our personal stories and the experiences of people who benefit from medical marijuana – such as veterans and the elderly – to create awareness and foster this realization among the general public.

If we can do that effectively, I’m convinced that more people will come to the realization in 2012 than ever before. And therein lies the key to moving the industry forward. As more and more people gain a true understanding of medical cannabis, support for it will continue to grow, as will the industry’s influence. When that occurs, big things will happen. The approval rating for cannabis use will rise to above 60 percent, which I predict will happen one year from today. Eventually, we’ll all be able to remember exactly where we were on the historical day when the federal government legalized medical marijuana.

Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, spreading the gospel about the medicinal aspects of marijuana is much harder than it seems. There’s an old saying that it takes seven truths to undo one lie. When it comes to medical cannabis, we have to undo over 40 years of lies and combat a whole host of misconceptions about marijuana and what it can do to ease pain. It will be hard and it will take time, but it will pay big dividends in the future.

What else will we see going forward in this industry? I fully expect big investment players to get involved eventually. There’s a trillion dollars in investment money sitting on the sidelines right now. Once businesses feel more comfortable about the direction and overall health of the economy, that money will flood the market as investors look for new opportunities. Some will no doubt want to acquire their way into medical marijuana, which will benefit companies like Cannabis Science.

But there will be some near-term challenges. The economic outlook is not positive for 2012, creating a huge amount of uncertainty. That could drag down the medical cannabis industry, making it hard for businesses in the sector to survive. Only those with successful, streamlined business models and plenty of cash in the war chest will be able to move forward.

You don’t have to possess a crystal ball to see that 2012 will be a long, hard year for medical marijuana. The industry faces challenges in the political and financial arenas. The fact that it’s an election year could exacerbate the problems, as supporting medical marijuana will be a risky proposition.

But we can make great strides when it comes to restoring integrity to the industry and creating a greater understanding of  marijuana’s medical benefits. Be sure to support industry organizations that exude integrity (my favorites include Cannabis Science, Cannibuzz and Patients Out of Time). Most importantly, tell others how you learned that cannabis is a medicine not a recreational drug.

Robert Kane is the president of Robert Kane Partners and Cannabis Consulting Inc., which works to establish the MMJ industry as a viable investment option.