Future Of: Cannabis

by Mira Blumenthal

The future of pot. Now that’s a divisive topic to discuss on a casual Tuesday night. And yet, the way in which Alan Gertner (CEO at Tokyo Smoke and former Google employee) and the rest of the Future Of attendees orchestrated the conversation was anything but.

Using facts and figures, Gertner outlined where we’re at with the legalization of cannabis and how the market is rife with opportunity. He articulately outlined the business implications of the emerging industry and its very active user base, and yet — almost more importantly — he was able to go beyond the mere facts and figures and get down to the human side of cannabis culture.

Cannabis needs a new brand identity

Gertner explained how, when society or the media discusses marijuana, we tend to default to the image of a “stoner” — a lazy, blurry-minded, red-eyed teenager in a hoodie. He then raised the point: when we think about drinking, we don’t think about alcoholics. There is a vast group of cannabis users who are not stoners; in fact, they’d likely be offended if you called them that. And these kinds of misconceptions around marijuana are endless.

So what can we do to tackle this? From what I heard last week, it seems like we should be focusing on the people — and people like to know what they’re getting themselves into.

1. Refreshed lingo

According to Gertner, language is fundamental to the “harmless revolution” that’s percolating. If pot smoking is to become mainstream, the silly and juvenile nomenclature that is currently used for the different strands of marijuana and its accompanying accessories needs to be phased out and replaced by a more accessible, descriptive, and softer naming system.

2. Regulated reefer

Extracts, edibles, and other odor-free options have a very active and demanding user base, as do dispensaries. However, for cannabis use to shift from the illegal fringes of society to the regulated realm of big pharma, it will need to become normalized and standardized — and language, a sense of safety and clarity, and new societal codes of conduct are key to this.

3. Patients not products

Insight into the human side of cannabis consumption were central to this discussion. Beyond the cultural changes and financial gains that can be gleaned from this product, the ways in which both medical and recreational marijuana use impacts the user is critical to its mainstream adoption.

Putting aside the recreational users for a moment, the obstacles and that medical marijuana users currently face are astounding. Lack of access, clarity, and education around high CBD strains — among several other challenges — are hindering patients on a regular basis. This is an entirely different side of the revolution that is all too often overlooked. By humanizing the industry and changing the way pot is both sold and thought about, perhaps the emotional aspect of the industry will be able to come to the fore.

What’s the resolution?

These issues were by no means going to be solved in a single discussion on a single night. However, by opening up the eyes of the attendees — which included everyone from patient advocates, to holistic healers, to recreational users — the discussion was able to present a different dimension of the cannabis debate and to attempt to humanize it, before we legalize it.

As the second episode of the Future Of series came to a close, a sense of warmness seemed to surround the group. It wasn’t just the delicious Tokyo Smoke coffee that filled our bellies late on a weekday evening, but rather the sense that, by discussing these issues and attempting to look at them from a variety of perspectives, we were fostering something larger than ourselves.

As Future Of founder David King likes to say, when people from different walks of life come together and all their differing disciplines intersect, new and unusual ideas emerge.

Interested in more?

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