Home Wine Business Editorial Cannabis Beyond the Black Market, Blurring Medicinal and Recreational Use

Cannabis Beyond the Black Market, Blurring Medicinal and Recreational Use


By Janet Perry

Bill Silver, CEO of the highly successful CannaCraft, keynoted the 2nd annual Wine and Weed Symposium in Santa Rosa on August 2nd, hosted by Wine Industry Network. Silver sat down with Wine Industry Advisor afterwards to talk about some of the topics he didn’t have time to address in his keynote including cannabis as medicine, the language we use around it, and the County’s recent decision regarding small cannabis farms.

Silver has been witness to some illuminating trends since the industry was allowed to open its doors wide. “One of the interesting phenomena, we’ve actually seen with the opening up of the recreational markets is an increase in the sales of our medical brand, Care by Design. It’s far outpaced the growth of some of our recreational brands, which are also growing substantially. I think what’s happening is that people who weren’t comfortable going into a dispensary under the system where you had to go see a physician. Now, you can just go in, and what we’re seeing is friends are bringing friends in saying, ‘Look, come with me and I’ll show you’.”

Silver noted that the choices available to consumers now are abundant. “The industry has evolved to create products to allow people to access the medicine without the traditional practice of smoking it. In addition to the vape cartridges, you have sublingual drops and sprays and soft gels. You can get your medicine via chocolate or through a non-calorie, non-carbonated beverages. You can get CBDs. There’re creams, there’re oil applicators. Even disposable strips or other infused products, like honey.”

“There’s so many ways that people can access the medicine, which helps them to find the right application for their health condition,” explained Silver. “What you see is a sophistication of the personalization of medicine. People can get the right medicine for what they need at the right time.”

Silver is also thoughtfully critiquing how the industry approaches it’s interactions with the public and is looking to more proactive ways of presenting cannabis. “I’m not even sure we’re using the right words anymore,” declared Silver. “When we say medicine or we say recreation, we begin to create categories of how people understand what they’re taking, and we may have created a false understanding of the true potential. I think of this as truly health and wellness, not traditional view of healthcare as sickness treatment.”

Silver says he likes to use the parallel of coffee to help people see the subtleties. “When you have a cup of coffee in the morning, is that recreational or medicinal,” asks Silver? “If you’re taking it for the energizing effect that’s potentially medicine, but some people describe coffee as a way to relax in the morning. If you’re meeting friends for that cup of coffee, is that medicating or is that recreating? What about decaf coffee? So it’s really a continuum. I think cannabis is very much the same way. It has efficacy in treating disease, but it also can help keep you healthy and you can take it to keep healthy states, like for me personally I’ll have our high CBD product before I run in the morning. It keeps my joints healthy and keeps me pain free.”

Sonoma County cannabis just took a hard hit with new tightened regulations for smaller cannabis farmers that may drive them back into the black market or out of business. “This is just my personal opinion,” declared Silver, “but the county isn’t honoring the will of the voters. They should look at the percentages of the people that were supportive of this industry rather than listening to a vocal minority. The county needs further work on bringing different ideas together and coming up with a win-win solution because they’re not really addressing the concerns on either side. There are ways to support the industry, and in the end I think many of us want the same thing.”    

It’s important to see the big picture when considering cultivation and the neighborhoods in which many reside, and Silver feels this has been missed in recent county meetings. “There’s no one from the cannabis industry that wants anyone to feel unsafe, and that is a major concern of some of the groups that are opposing some of the cannabis businesses,” explained Silver. “Those are concerns that need to be addressed, but we also need to recognize that the incidences that have sparked most of the concerns are occurring in black market cannabis areas.”

Silver says the way to keep things safe is to keep everything in the regulated market. “Clearly there are economic advantages to supporting the industry. If the county doesn’t want to support healthy and sustainable growth, then those businesses are going to go elsewhere.”

Silver explained that he had witnessed an exodus of cannabis cultivators doing business in Sonoma County. “Our business used to source from Sonoma County, and not only tax dollars, but the actual business revenue, has now left. So all those small businesses would then spend their dollars, not only on business supplies because that’s their income. That money gets spent on schools, non-profits, it supports local restaurants and retail outlets. That money is no longer in the county.”

Silver praised the Wine Industry Network’s Wine and Weed Symposium. “It’s very cutting edge to bring leaders of two industries together, exploring how we can learn from each other and where they might travel next, sometimes in partnership and sometimes separately but from an awareness of possible collaborations, and certainly in our community, ways to support other industries, like tourism. I think with wine and cannabis, in our communities we’re just beginning to understand the ways we can work together.”



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