Medical Marijuana hits the big time with big exposure

05-07-2015 - Column

Over the past week or so, I’ve been sent some interesting news coverage concerning medical marijuana. There is the usual array of stories run in local or small circulation papers, but there are also two big (as in really big) players putting their oars into the debate.

“The highly divisive, curiously underfunded and strangely promising world of Pot Science”, is the front page story run by Time Magazine, not exactly known for their “out there” ideas, given their propagation of the “reefer madness” myths in the past.

National Geographic magazine have also run a feature on medical marijuana, “Science seeks to unlock marijuana’s secrets”.

Of the two stories, I liked the National Geographic one best (check it out), as the writer interviewed a range of different people and movers and shakers. The thing about this article that got my attention is the fact that all of the interviewees seem to be interested in the common good as opposed to lining their own pockets (more of which in a minute).

At last! This is excellent, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

I’m finding myself increasingly in two minds about the whole thing, to be honest with you all. Don’t get me wrong; yes, it’s great that cannabis science finally looks as though it’s coming into the mainstream. Cures proposed for this and that: all good. The non-medical use of cannabis becoming legally acceptable in a number of places: also all good, as I suspect there will be a range of very positive public health effects stemming from this (a dramatic reduction in the consumption of dodgy synthetic cannabis, for one thing).

But...and of course, there is a “but”’s all the stuff that comes along with this that bothers me. Fair enough, the Time and National Geographic front page headlines are optimistic and full of “wow” type promise, but if you look a little harder, you find a lot of other stuff, such as:

“Investors rushing to marijuana...”

“Investment dollars are flowing into the cannabis industry...”

We’ve got Cannabis Business Expositions and all the rest of it (usually with an entry fee of a few hundred dollars attached), hosted by well educated young things with Hollywood smiles, wearing sharp suits. City types, marketing and advertising types.

These are not dope idealists by any means. These are the “bottom line” profit margin people of the “Sell more! Increase our market share! MAKE MORE MONEY!” mindset, and that’s what bothers me. A lot.

Maybe it’s me who is being pie in the sky about all of this, but it just seems (or rather, it feels) plain wrong to me that cannabis is basically just becoming another commodity to be bought and sold on the stock market, like coffee, sugar or oil. It’s just not supposed to be like this. Weed used to have a sort of outlaw "edginess" that's gone now (actually, this really went when the big cartels moved in, but that's another story).

I always imagined that legal cannabis would involve a whole lot of community based enterprises and initiatives, cooperatives, if you like. Or, failing that, run by the government, regulated properly and taxed properly; big business would be politely but firmly excluded. Looks like I was way off the mark on that one.

Rather than being young and idealistic, maybe I'm just old and idealistic. Perhaps I need to wise up to the fact that these are different times and that really, cannabis is just a commodity to be bought and sold along with everything else after all. It just seems to me a real pity.

Also of interest ...