The Importance of Transparency In The Cannabis Space
After Dr. Gordon and I decided we were going to throw caution to the wind and start an actual medical cannabis practice, I had to figure out a marketing plan.
I’d spent years strategically crafting marketing strategies for a variety of businesses. From auto dealers to public zoos and everything in between, over the course of 15 years I’d consulted, crafted, designed, and implemented hundreds of campaigns. One project I’d never had a chance to tackle was anything related to healthcare.
Whenever I’d find myself involved in a new endeavor, my marketing brain slips into a process of identification: who, what, when, where, how, and why. In looking at what we were about to do, I realized quickly that healthcare, especially healthcare that involved a federally prohibited substance, had to be done very carefully.
The most elemental step in creating a brand is gauging public perception. In my own life, anyone I’d ever known who’d been involved in the healthcare world, whether patient or practitioner, had seemed to develop negative feelings toward the business end of American medicine.
Insurance approvals and bills, copays and deductibles, generally poor customer service, and a complete lack of focus on long term patient well being all seemed to contribute to an erosion of trust. Profits have been put before patients.
Scrutiny accompanies any mention of cannabis; therefore, I realized in order for us to be able to operate in a regulatory climate, such as Florida, we would have to build a legitimate medical practice that operated with the highest integrity.
Our three basic tenets of practice (patient care, education, and advocacy) have guided us along the way. We stopped using pot culture terms, like weed, bong, joint, and marijuana. Our logo designers were given instruction to create a clean and clinical logo that incorporated the plant.
Since treating our first patient on January 3, we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal expenses, getting advice and guidance from our team of lawyers. With the reported “lack of data” as to the efficacy of cannabis by certain legislators in Tallahassee, we began collecting treatment data from our patients. Our monthly patient support groups are a first of their kind, and we were the first practice in the state to work directly with the dispensary licensees (MMTC’s) to arrange for free weekly clinical delivery of patient’s medication.
And we’ve opened our doors to the curious.
Dozens of physicians, clinicians, advocates, and lawmakers have visited and shadowed our practice. Each time we have a visitor, they always have a certain level of preconception when they first walk into our doors. After spending a few hours with our staff and after sitting in with Dr. Gordon during a few patient examinations, they generally leave with the same amazement.
As Florida’s medical cannabis program begins to grow, clinics seem to be popping up on a daily basis. Most appear to be operating within the guidelines of the law, but others appear far from compliance. We have a duty to patients statewide to advocate for access and, by proxy, we have a duty to ensure others operating within the space are doing so with integrity.
While our practice has grown beyond any initial expectation, Dr. Gordon and I simply don’t view cannabis as a competitive practice of medicine.
Over the past year, we’ve encouraged countless physicians to crossover into the world of green treatment. Whenever someone from another practice has a question or concern about how the particulars of the system work, we are responsive and answer anything asked to us. We operate with transparency, something that sets us apart from most others in this arena.
There is, we believe, an incredible demand for access. In a state with 20 million residents, there are plenty of patients to go around. Those of us dutifully serving patients each day, from MMTCs to individual practitioners and established practices, need to collaborate and communicate with each other. Perhaps most importantly, we need to fight together to ensure purposeful obstructions are removed, and unnecessary future regulation doesn’t interfere with a patient’s constitutional right to medical cannabis.
Together, we can create a model system, where patients are living better lives while treating not only the symptoms, but the underlying cause, with a method that works with their bodies. Together, we can create a system that educates doctors and patients, allowing them to provide a higher, more proactive standard of healthcare.