The 3 Legs that Hold up the Medical Cannabis Table


Medical cannabis gets a lot of attention from the media. That is not surprising, given the number of states that now have active medical cannabis programs. At the same time, the issue can be confusing to people who do not understand its complexities. One way to look at it is to compare it to a table. Not just any table, mind you, but one supported by three legs.

The three legs are medicine, money, and politics. You could make the case that money and politics are intertwined, but we will consider them separate for the purposes of this post. Understand each of the three legs and you should have a pretty good handle on what the medical cannabis industry is all about.

The Medical Leg

The medical leg is self-evident. If cannabis is being used for purposes other than medical, those purposes are recreational. There is no other way to cut it. Therefore, proponents of medical cannabis focus exclusively on its medical benefits. They talk about things like THC and CBD. They discuss strains like cannabis indica and cannabis sativa.

At the heart of their perspective are genuine medical needs. The medical community recognizes people suffering daily from epileptic seizures, people whose seizures can be controlled with medical cannabis. They talk about PTSD sufferers who only find relief from their anxiety and nightmares through cannabis. They speak of cancer patients who have no other means of finding relief from their pain.

The Financial Leg

Where there is something to be produced and sold, you have the potential to run a business. Thus, there is no escaping that medical cannabis has a lucrative financial component. Altruism aside, there is money to be made in cannabis.

Money is made at the retail level by operating a cannabis pharmacy. Deseret Wellness, a medical marijuana dispensary in Park City, Utah is an example. They buy their products from processors who represent business interests at the wholesale level. Processors take raw hemp and marijuana and turn it into usable medical products.

The growers are the lowest level in the medical cannabis chain. They make money by producing raw hemp and marijuana flower. What they grow is sold to processors. What processors produce is sold to dispensaries. Dispensaries then sell products at retail.

The Political Leg

Finally, you have the political leg. We don’t like to talk about it, but it’s impossible to credibly deny the political influence in the medical cannabis arena. Politicians run on their support of, or opposition to, medical cannabis. Voters cast their votes accordingly.

Politics play a role in how medical cannabis is regulated in the states in which it is allowed. They play a role in transitioning from strict medical use to medical and recreational. Where licenses are concerned, politics influence who gets a license and who does not.

Take Away One Leg…

It takes all three legs to keep the medical cannabis table standing. Take away just one and the whole thing collapses. For instance, remove the medical component and you take away the legitimacy it adds to the discussion. If there is no medical component, all cannabis use becomes recreational.

Take away the financial leg and it becomes impossible to produce the medical products patients need. Take away the political leg and there is no way to pass the laws that make medical cannabis possible.

Medical cannabis is a more complicated issue than it seems to be on the surface. The more you understand the three legs that prop it up, the more you understand why it is so difficult for all those involved to come together on the same page.