On June 28-29 Puerto Rico made history with the first, large scale business conference MedCann.Biz. Enthusiasm was as high as any as I've seen at any business summit. The show's organizers have a strong reputation for high quality consulting and business intelligence in Puerto Rico and it was on full display as a fine-looking well educated crowd poured into the Ritz-Carlton in San Juan.
The speakers were a combination of the paid corporate sponsors, local key political figures on the regulatory side as well as medical professionals, with myself, Chris Hudalla of ProVerde Labs, and Dr. Sue Sisley the only Americans brought in to educate based on our experience. I had the honor to give three medical presentations which we appropriately titled "Cannabinoids 101: Medical Efficacy" (part 1 and part 2) and a presentation geared toward "global" approach regulators in Puerto Rico keyed in on in the regulations which we titled "Medical Cannabis Tourism: The Game Changer".
In my first presentation, I delivered a powerful message about the distinctions between medical and recreational cannabis emphasizing the importance of compassionate care and the development of more sophisticated medicine and to "go beyond THC". I wanted to test the experience and knowledge of the audience so I asked how many had heard of Rick Simpson Oil, which is easily found by anyone who has done any rudimentary research on medical cannabis, in a packed room of 400-500 potential investors, barely 5 hands were raised.
Was I surprised? Not one bit. One of the phenomenon's of the "medical cannabis movement" has been how legalization is occurring all over the United States and beyond, without the people lobbying for it. Frankly, it is clear that medical cannabis legalization is happening for reasons that go beyond helping the people as we've seen in many US states a complete lack of interest from the segment of the population that needs it most.
The potential investors are fundamentally devoid of all knowledge on medical cannabis and yet they are ready, willing, and able to toss millions haphazardly into an industry they have no knowledge about. This is truly a phenomenon in my mind. Another phenomenon which Dr. Sisley concurred with me when asked, was the participation and willingness of the medical community to get involved. On my last visit to Puerto Rico, I met with the CEO's of several of the hospitals and most of them were ready to get involved with medical cannabis, which would make Puerto Rico only the second nation after Israel to allow the consumption on cannabis in a hospital.
Most encouraging about the conference were the quality of the attendees and there bright eyes, hopeful optimism, but over two days I saw many dreams fade as they were to quickly catch on that this program would be for big players only. By the end of the second day, every one had more then enough education to figure out whether they had the financial means to own a cannabis licensed business or whether they would have to invest their resources into an ancillary business to support the development of the industry.
For me, I continue to be bewildered by the lack of research on cannabis the general publi and for this, I am often criticized by my peers as a pessimist. I can't manage to wrap my head around how people can be so enthusiastic about investing money into something they know so little about. It confounds me, why investors wait until the last minute to educate themselves about something that supposedly interests them so much? It's not like medical cannabis is a new concept, cannabis is a $6 billion a year industry, why are people waiting until the last minute to sniff around and see what's going on? I continue to be fascinated how people can know so little about cannabis, be so enthusiastic for a brief moment in time, and on a whim be willing to throw so much money into something just because everyone else is doing it. There must be a social experiment here-somewhere.
ABOVE: The patient enrollment percentage of the failed medical cannabis programs (LEFT) and successful medical cannabis programs. (RIGHT) One critical factor separates the two, programs on the right invite small business registered caregivers to grow and sell cannabis to patients. Programs on the left restrict cultivation and sales to licensed businesses only, leaving out the local small farmers.
What also is of tremendous interest is how regulators continue to overlook the critical facts of successful and failed medical cannabis programs. All of the successful ones allow families to become registered caregivers who are permitted to grow medical cannabis and compete with licensed cannabis businesses. It generates more tax revenue, fuels innovation, and pushes the licensees to develop more sophisticated medical products. All of the failed medical cannabis programs restrict all business opportunity to the license holders, leaving out the families to provide medicine for themselves. In Puerto Rico, they have chosen to the path of the losers like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Minnesota, and more who have done a terrible job providing medicine to those in need for the sake of oligopoly-based systems that protect the license holders citing the same old tired excuses such as, "we want more sophisticated medicine and a clean and pure product for patients."
These excuses are an embarrassment the Hippocratic oath in my opinion, the primary function of healthcare is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity the best quality of life available. When a medicine can be created at home that has the potential to mitigate symptoms of hundreds of conditions and potentially cure or reduce the suffering of terminal diseases, it is absolutely unacceptable to restrict people from access and the people know it and this will be the Achilles heal of every medical cannabis program that puts the interests of monopolistic minds ahead of the general pubic needing access to cannabis.
The conference was a phenomenal production and the opportunities to take medical cannabis global through medical tourism a potential game-changer, but something doesn't sit right with me when sick people from other countries with the wealth to afford to travel to get access to medicine that will undoubtedly be too expensive for the common citizen of Puerto Rico. But this is what happens when the general public doesn't take an interest in activism, we get the laws our public officials are forced to write, beholden to the corporate interests who put them in power. Can we blame them? I don't think so.
There comes a time when regular people need to be accountable for their lack of participation in the political process. There comes a time when the TV must be turned off, the music is over, and the drugs and alcohol are closed in the pantry only to be replaced by community organizing to get what they need from their political leaders. Sadly, that time has yet to come anywhere I have been in the Western world, but I will continue to work to educate people on the vital importance to the well being of people all over the globe.
At the CHA, we do this because we love helping others and we are fascinated by the rabbit hole of scientific information this plant offers us, the wonderment of the medical and industrial applications that can make us a better world and we execute our businesses, not with a thought of making money, but how we can help others through cannabis. I made my message very clear, if you are in medical cannabis to make money, go find another industry, but if you are here to help people get well and have the financial resources to heal people, money will be the consequence of those actions.