A botanist, biologist, chemist, pharmacist, doctor, patient, entrepreneur and investor agreed to meet in an informal round table discussion about one topic. No session agenda was set and invitees were asked to check their own agendas at the door.
On the large whiteboard was written one word: ‘Cannabis.‘
What followed was a 2-hour session, often heated, but at all times amiable. Everyone in the room represented an organization focused on a segment or silo of the cannabis industry, each one with their own vision of the future for the plant, its therapeutic benefits and methodology of bringing it to the masses.
There was a shared understanding of the urgent need to advance and finance clinical research; there were deep divisions on who should finance and conduct the research.
The discussion of the position big pharma will take in the emerging disruption of conventional medicine pushed many in the room into frustrated monologues of regulation, monopolies and more shady theories best kept for the apres-meet.
One thing agreed by all was the almost secretive knowledge we in the industry share, that the end of cannabis prohibition is nigh.
Over half an hour was spent discussing the need for, and process of cannabis becoming a dose-able, measurable and prescribe-able medicine.
Education and on-boarding of cannabis and its therapeutic benefits are one of the single biggest obstacles to mass adoption. Doctors must understand what they’re recommending, pharmacists must understand what they’re dispensing, and patients must have clear directions for use. All these are lacking, though easily and likely fixable by the current head of the Israel Medical Cannabis Agency.
As the conversation climbed out of the big pharma rabbit hole, the two questions remained to be answered (and I expect will be answered by Israeli science in the not too distant future) were:
- Can we get the same benefits from synthetic cannabis that we can from the plant?’
- What’s better? Extracted compounds (THC / CBD ++) versus whole plant.
I’ll elaborate on #1. Today we know that active ingredients in the plant degrade over time, which offers pharma the opportunity to standardize and stabilize via synthesization. On the flip-side is the unscientific answer by the scientists that nature always wins over man-made.
I’ll also delve into #2. We are every day unlocking the secrets of cannabis, what began as THC (psychoactive compound good for neurological indication) and quickly joined by CBD (non-psychoactive compound, good for epilepsy, inflammation and much more) has now been joined by THCa, CBN, CBG, Terpenes and more than 80 other unique compounds. What we’re learning today about the entourage effect of various compound formulations and strains is the golden nugget of cannabis medication tomorrow.
The conversation swayed back and forth between the science and the delivery. How can patients be best serviced today when the current availability of product is unable to keep up with scientific discovery. How can patients best self-medicate without the proper clinical trials and investment in and innovation of delivery systems (patches, pills, flower, oil, tinctures and many more) that are also lagging behind our rapidly expanding knowledge.
The conversation was steered elegantly away from politics and recreational use. The underlying focus always on point of; what can Israel do? How can Israel contribute?
The investor and entrepreneur in the room sat mostly silent throughout, bar the odd probing question or point clarification. For them, the simplicity of the challenge was clear: is the world close enough to ending prohibition to reduce the investment risk?
The simplicity of the opportunity shone like a crystal. This is an industry like no other. An industry emerging with an existing user base. Not a potential or possible target market, an actual user base consisting of hundreds of millions of daily users spending billions of dollars a year on the black market. This is the excitement and potential reward of building a viable business vehicle for the short, medium, and long term.
As the round-table was brought to a close with new friends and colleagues confirmed, each was asked to analogize their thoughts of the industry.
“It’s like learning how to fly when already airborne”
“It’s like building a plane as it’s taking off”
“It’s like improvising the safety movie”
“It’s like planning a journey when you’re at the airport”
“It’s like seeing a bush and witnessing a miracle”