What’s in a name? Hello, world. I spent a fair amount of time thinking about creating this blog. What will the focus be? Who’s the audience? How formal do I need or want to be? The name was an easy decision – welcome to the Pot Czar Blog.
When I ran the Illinois Medical Cannabis program, not a day went by without hearing a pot joke. Indeed, many in the Governor’s Office only referred to me as the “pot czar.” I successfully kept this moniker out of the press until the end of my tenure, but I privately enjoyed the name as a badge of honor (despite my pleas, my wife would not join the chorus). In hindsight, I am very proud to have been a part of getting medicine to patients suffering from a range of ailments – even if that comes with a tongue-in-cheek title I will someday have to explain to my son (“Dad, why does everyone ask me if you can get them a pot brownie?”).
With the blog name settled, I reflected on the importance of a name in this industry. Cannabis or marijuana? Resin or Shatter? Patient or criminal? The distinctions obviously matter and have driven this spectacular shift in society’s capacity to rethink the benefits and relative risks of this medicinal plant.
I was first approached in the Fall of 2012 about medical cannabis in Illinois. I was working in the Office of the Illinois Governor as an attorney focused on healthcare and environmental issues. At that time it was increasingly likely that a medical cannabis law could be passed in the Spring 2013 Illinois General Assembly. A few of us were tasked with negotiating the final bill with legislative sponsors and others. It is safe to say that I had no idea at the time how the cannabis industry was going to take over my career.
The world has changed a great deal in the last 4 years with regards to cannabis. Here in Illinois, medical cannabis is available to a small percentage of the population – the law and rules keep many from participating. There are a number of barriers that should be removed for patients – and I will continue advocating to tear down those walls. Dozens of dispensaries and cultivation centers are operational here, and several entrepreneurial cannabis-related startups and investors are sprouting in Chicago. There are advocacy organizations, regular media stories, dedicated Facebook pages, and ongoing political discourse about the industry. We are even on the verge of significant criminal justice reform.
I will keep this blog focused on the cannabis industry, warts and all. There are many things to discuss – patient access, business innovations, legal implications, criminal justice issues and more – and I look forward to hearing your feedback. Who knows what will happen next in the world of cannabis, but the Pot Czar Blog will chronicle it all.