Cannabiz co-founder and chief growth officer Martin Lane urges the industry to appeal beyond its base and win over the doubters.
It’s not always easy deciding what we should and shouldn’t publish on Cannabiz. Our mission statement says our role is to shine a light on opportunities for growth. To help our members navigate the business of legal cannabis as it evolves into a billion dollar industry.
So most of our stories feature positive news about growing consumer demand, successful clinical trials, changes in the regulatory framework and companies securing deals to distribute their products far and wide. We try to analyse what that news means for your business, not just tell you that it happened.
The trouble is, we know this is an industry with many detractors, and to ignore them is to bury our collective heads in the sand about the problems we face and will continue to face in some influential quarters.
And today, a story came across my metaphorical desk that didn’t fit our usual criteria (in the year of COVID, it’s actually the kitchen table).
I admit I was tempted to publish it. It’s written up and ready to go. I even selected a suitable image. The temptation is still pushing my finger towards the publish button. Not because it fits with our mission statement, but because it shows what we’re all up against.
The story neatly captures the challenges the industry faces, not just from cynics shouting “show me the evidence” but from people who might, let’s say, get a bit carried away when discussing the benefits of the plant.
So in a blatant case of having my cake and eating it, here it is, in truncated form…
US researchers claim CBD is ‘this generation’s snake oil’
US researchers have claimed people using CBD and spruiking its effectiveness for a range of conditions online are making it ‘this generation’s snake oil’.
Analysing hundreds of randomly selected testimonials from Reddit’s r/CBD forum between January 2014 and August 2019, the research team found that many users already perceive CBD as an effective medical treatment for numerous health conditions, despite the scientific backing not always being there.
Of the 376 posts assessed, 90% claimed CBD could treat a diagnosable health condition.
Autism and depression were among the most frequently cited in the channel. Others reported using CBD oral capsules and tinctures for joint pain, sleep disorders and neurological conditions, as well as gut issues, addiction, oral health and even cardiovascular conditions such as heart palpitations.
The researchers claim while CBD holds lots of promise in the medical world, especially as a potential therapy for sleep and chronic pain, its recent popularity has outpaced the actual science.
“The public appears to believe CBD is medicine,” said researcher Davey Smith, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California San Diego.
“Who would have predicted that the public might ever think CBD is a cardiology medication?”
Over the course of the five years researchers studied, posts on r/CBD went from roughly 2,000 per year to nearly 12,000 per year, and most of these conversations were about CBD’s therapeutic uses.
Study lead author Eric Leas, who studies public health at UC San Diego, said: “CBD is this generation’s snake oil as millions believing to have discovered a new medical breakthrough are actually taking a product without evidence of a benefit.”
That’s a hell of a long bow you’re drawing there Eric. I decided not to publish (kinda).
It’s a classic example of using research to prove rather than test an assumption. A small sample size, drawn from a specific group (cannabis advocates, almost certainly non-medical), making claims they are no doubt passionate about, but aren’t scientifically qualified to make.
The internet is full of forums where like-minded people reinforce their shared beliefs in a social media bubble. It’s the reason the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ are surprised when Brexit and Trump happen.
And in this case, it’s actually quite heart-warming that people suffering chronic conditions want to share their success stories with others. They are no doubt more concerned with feeling better – and helping others to do likewise – than whether their claims stand up to scientific rigour.
The problem is that people like “Study lead author Eric Leas” use it as a reason to write off an entire industry.
It’s perfectly true that there’s a lot more clinical trialling to be done. It’s also true that some people go over the top in claiming cannabis is a wonder drug that can cure everything from cancer to the common cold.
It’s not true that millions of people are “taking a product without evidence of a benefit”. As we know, there’s plenty of proof that CBD works for many people with many specific indications. Maybe not all those claimed on Reddit, but it’s disingenuous to use over-enthusiasm in some quarters to label everyone else as the victims of a hoax.
The original source story went even further. If you really want to annoy yourself you can read it here.
Suffice to say, cannabis seems almost Trumpian in its ability to place people on one side of the fence or the other. The industry’s challenge is to appeal beyond its base, convincing the sceptics not the patients whose lives it has already transformed.
Unlike the President’s supporters, the way to do that is still through the appliance of science.