NJ Cannabis Media -
January 21, 2019

Cannabis and stigma: How N.J. can address the issue

Written by Marc Schwarz

Part 3 of NJ Cannabis Media’s special report on stigma and the cannabis industry.

Sometimes the best way to consider a problem is to identify the solutions.

If stigma is a primary issue preventing the growth of the cannabis industry – how can New Jersey overcome it?

Peter Barsoom, the founder of Nuka Enterprises and a New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association trustee, offers possibilities.

Part 1: How stigma affects everything in the cannabis industry

Part 2: Why words matter

“The stigma exists because of the 100-plus years of prohibition. Because Nancy Reagan told us just say no. Because we’ve locked up blacks and Hispanics at an alarming rate,” Barsoom tells NJ Cannabis Media. “It’s not going to go away overnight.”

But he offered a blueprint for eliminating the stigma:

  1. Through the professionalization of the industry. And in that sense, New Jersey has a leg up over California and other places that have a stronger stoner culture.
  2. We have to engage medical professionals. This is what [Health commissioner] Dr. [Shareef] Elnahal is doing right. People go to their doctor and their healthcare practitioners for advice on this issue. They are influencers. We need to spend time working with them, educating them to expand their understanding
  3. We need more research. And so that’s why we devote five percent of our revenues into doing research so that we can determine what’s the best dosages, the best administration method, what are the side effects – so we can give people and give doctors a lot more information about how to use cannabis
  4. Products. Smoking is not necessarily the best method for consuming cannabis. The lungs are not the best delivery vehicle and all of the negative effects we know about smoking. So we’re focused on controlled dose, low-dose products. Edibles, controlled-dose vapes and possibly beverages that make it accessible and discreet.
  5. By focusing on specific effects. It’s not just about getting high. It’s about helping you sleep better. It’s about helping you have more energy. It’s about helping with anxiety. So the more it’s focused on these specific effects and not about just getting high and that’s the big difference between alcohol and cannabis.

“Alcohol is an intoxicant. You drink in order to feel intoxicated. Other than studies that have shown some of the benefits of a glass of wine, that’s very different than cannabis that has true health benefits,” Barsoom says. “So for a lot of people, sleep is the No. 1 reason they use. When a 92 year old woman is using our product to help her get a good night’s sleep. It’s not about getting high. It’s about ‘I just had the best night of sleep I’ve had in years.’ So those kinds of experiences are critical to reducing the stigma which is why we’re particularly focused on women and seniors as the two most important populations to educate and to go after in both the medical market and in the consumer marker.”

So, how do you do that education?

“It’s a lot of boots on the ground,” he says.

That means seminars at senior citizen centers, bringing doctors in to explain the process, being transparent about what goes on in the dispensary, explaining how the plant is processed.

For Barsoom, it’s about demystifying the plant and the process.

Next: Battling the stoner image when dealing with other businesses.




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