Cannabis: The Gold Mine of MisinformationBy Erick Ponce | Mon, 08/30/2021 - 13:00
There’s no doubt that cannabis news is our day-to-day bread and butter; whether a groundbreaking legislation has been passed, a new company has been acquired or launched a successful IPO, or X or Y player launches a much-ado-about-nothing press release (those pesky LOI/sourcing announcements, meant to generate nothing but speculation).
We surely are inundated with data and not necessarily the curated, quality information this industry needs. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges the cannabis industry is facing.
At the end of June 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring that cannabis prohibition for personal use is against the country’s Constitution and that the authorities must issue the proper legislation to ensure the proper permits and authorizations for personal, noncommercial use. National and international headlines ensued, claiming that Mexico had legalized cannabis for adult use. This could not be farther from the truth, yet the damage had already been done.
And then, a few weeks ago, there was an uproar in social media, justifiably so, about a piece in a rather-known Mexican newspaper claiming cannabis was directly responsible for over 96 deaths by overdosing directly from consuming the plant. If that were the case, Mexico would be the first country in the world to record death from overdosing from cannabis in history, which, of course, was highly misleading and just not true (the title of the article was later changed just to claim consumption has spiked recently).
Sadly, these are not isolated incidents,. Worse yet, it’s not just a less-than-educated-on-cannabis journalist trying to create a click-bait news article. From the creation of “the first cannabis-specific venture capital funds in Mexico” (just setting up a S.A.P.I. company in Mexico won't make it a fund, with all the protections a real VC fund does), to ex-government officials setting up consultancy services or appearing in franchised smoke-shops advertising nationwide (over-promising a “slice of the new-born cannabis industry in the country”), we must acknowledge that we are tip-toeing around a very risky area.
Still worse, however, is the very advertising of illegal products and services, which is the greatest risk that we are facing. While it's lamentable that these so-called thought leaders engage in shady business practices that will inevitably lead to many new (and seasoned) investors losing money, our main concern is the potential health risks that inevitably come with the lack of a transparent and efficient way to corroborate information and data.
So, in a sea of information, where even “cannabis connoisseurs” participate in this misinformation, how can we make sure we are protecting those who need it the most? Namely, patients, consumers and their families.
First, of course, is admitting we have a problem. There are those who, intentionally or unintentionally, spread misinformation. This is, by no means, a standalone issue. We go online looking for information, either because of the taboo itself (FOMO anyone?) or because we have a real medical or personal necessity to find out more about cannabis.
Catering to that necessity is step two. And to cater to the necessity of our community for trustworthy information, we need consensus among the industry: from the elimination of the awful (and by the way, racist) word “marijuana” from our day-to-day speech, to, of course, setting up accountability. Since we can’t count on a government body to police this information (and do we really want it to?), we must police ourselves against the spread of misinformation and, more importantly, against false advertising of services and products.
Our goal is simple and yet incredibly complicated to implement: We should know what is allowed and what is not, what is standard practice and what is a gray area in this market. What we need to ask, no, demand, from the brands and companies that are saturating social media and marketplaces is legality, quality and assurance.
Let's start with something simple: Where did your product come from? What documentation do you have to prove such a claim? (Hint: local invoice with specific details of the product, customs clearance, certificate of analysis, local labeling in Spanish.)
It’s easy to get lost in all this technical talk, or within buzzwords that investors and entrepreneurs, especially in this industry, love throwing around. We must remember that we have tools at our disposal, namely in the private and public organizations that are here to help us navigate these murky waters. Organizations, such as GPIC or ICAN, can provide a good blueprint to chart the way forward.
Should we learn what our rights (and responsibilities) are as consumers and patients, we will soon see that the true future of this new industry lies within the society at large and not so much under brands, corporations and governmental bodies.
We have a huge responsibility on our shoulders; we must not cave in the fight for proper and quality information. We must respect the regulations and seek to standardize practices but never at the expense of quality, reachability of information and accessibility to products and medications that are both legal and safe to use.