Guest post by Brittany Johnson of Veriheal.

There’s no doubt about it—cannabis as medicine is changing the world. From PTSD to Parkinson’s and everything in between, patients failed by traditional healthcare are turning to this versatile plant to alleviate all sorts of health problems. While the science behind cannabis and the testimonials of its users speak for themselves, medical marijuana (MMJ) advocates are still up against a deadly force: stigma. 

For far too long, the misinformation and propaganda surrounding cannabis have kept it out of the hands of the people who need it most. That’s why Veriheal, a rapidly growing MMJ platform, is on a mission to establish cannabis as credible medicine through science-based, personalized education. With truth and professionalism as our guides, we’re taking cannabis mainstream. Here’s how we’re doing it. 

A Century-Old Stigma

To understand the importance of credibility when educating about cannabis and its medicinal properties, it’s crucial to grasp the barriers that MMJ companies in the United States must face. Though cannabis’ healing powers are beginning to be acknowledged on a societal level, the chaotic political history of the plant has not made things easy for its advocates.

Cannabis was widely present in colonial America and the early years of the U.S. in the form of industrial hemp used for goods and medicine sold openly in pharmacies. However, Americans weren’t introduced to recreational use until 1910, when Mexican immigrants coming to the states began popularizing the plant. As anti-drug activists with nationalist agendas set out to eradicate “The Marijuana Menace,” cannabis became negatively associated with immigrants and social deviants. Cue strike one against cannabis. 

Genuine fear about the unfamiliar drug spread among Americans, and propaganda about it became more and more extreme. The 1930s saw the onset of anti-drug campaigns like Reefer Madness, a film that framed cannabis as dangerous and all-consuming. Rising hysteria and experimental research linking cannabis use with violence and crime were all the federal government needed to pass the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, effectively criminalizing the plant. Strike two. 

Shortly before President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the racialized war on drugs, Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Despite studies by government-sanctioned commissions throughout the ‘60s denying any links between cannabis and violence or opioid use, the plant was thrown into the Schedule I category alongside heroin and LSD, officially labeling it as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Strike three—you’re out. 

Today, MMJ advocates must address the disparity between their claims and the U.S. government’s official stance on the plant—a difficult task, indeed. One of the simplest ways to diminish the century-old stigma around cannabis as an MMJ marketer is using mindful language. At Veriheal, we avoid the use of slang such as “weed” and “stoner” in our content that evokes negative perceptions of the plant and contributes to harmful stereotypes surrounding its users.

The Power of Science

Unfortunately, language can only go so far. That’s where science steps in. Arguably the largest threat to the country’s current drug schedules is the massive stack of studies proving cannabis’ ultimate lack of harm and ability to relieve a variety of health conditions. While science can be used to educate on any aspect of cannabis, it’s the bread and butter for MMJ-focused companies. 

Don’t get it twisted: MMJ marketers are in the healthcare industry, and people aren’t as easygoing about their health as they are about their free time. Anyone can sell cannabis as a way to get high, but the success of MMJ initiatives lies in the ability to assemble and simplify the existing scholarship on the plant. And although cannabis and MMJ cards are for-profit goods and services, it’s crucial that companies promoting them convey a passion to educate over a motive to increase revenue. 

At Veriheal, one of our main goals is ensuring patients feel informed in their decision to try medical cannabis. So, we lay it all out there. Whether someone is interested in the genetics of cannabis, the safety of different consumption methods, or the way cannabis interacts with specific conditions, they can find most existing information about the plant—vetted by medical doctors—on our website. To encourage safe consumption, we even include information on the potentially negative aspects of cannabis, such as the development of cannabis use disorder.

However, MMJ education is not just about throwing every random piece of information about cannabis at folks erratically. Because everyone is learning about cannabis at their own pace, it’s important to provide them with foundational information in the form of glossaries, how-to guides, and pillar articles that can be easily accessed at any time. At the same time, content creators should also offer a stream of consistent content relevant to the industry, which is constantly changing. 

Happy Patients, Happy Industry

If science is the backbone of MMJ, patient testimonies are the heart. No matter how many studies and scholarly articles a company uses to back its promises, customers want to hear from people just like them whether a product or service truly works. One of the best ways an MMJ company can gain this kind of organic credibility is by fostering a community of happy patients, which ultimately results in the best kind of user-generated content: positive reviews.

The Veriheal team accomplishes this through constant interaction with our customers. We’re in the business of alternative medicine because we don’t believe healthcare is one-size-fits-all —and that applies to cannabis. We work with a diverse group of patients and doctors, so a big part of our marketing efforts is communicating with our community to create successful, personalized experiences with cannabis therapy. At the end of the day, we can take a step back and let our reviews do the talking.

After decades of being ignored and stigmatized, the medical cannabis industry needs passionate marketers and content creators to end the stigma that stands in the way of holistic health for so many people. With knowledge, drive, and solidarity as our superpowers, a greener future awaits.