'We Believe That Medical Patients Should Receive Equal Treatment': Spectrum's Mark Zekulin

In preparation for the upcoming World Cannabis Congress, Civilized is taking the opportunity to help you get acquainted with the exciting people who will be speaking at this summer's event.

Spectrum Cannabis has become well-known for their color-coded cannabis products which Mark Zekulin says was "designed to help people understand medical cannabis." Medical cannabis is in fact the focus at Spectrum, and even though the Canadian Medical Association says that Canada won't need a medical marijuana program once recreational legislation is rolled out, Zekulin is pushing back.

"The need for a separate medical system following legalization is an important conversation. As a patient-focused organization, we believe it’s essential to have a separate medical system as the medical and recreational use of cannabis products varies. Further, patients have a right to medical oversight in their health, and a medical system supports this as well as informed discussions with their healthcare professionals. People should not have to self-medicate with recreational cannabis simply because it’s legal."

Check out the full interview below to get Zekulin's insights on medical marijuana in Canada and the World Cannabis Congress.

What made you interested in taking part in World Cannabis Congress?

The World Cannabis Congress is an exciting homegrown event taking place on the cusp of legalization in Canada. It’s a great opportunity to engage with industry representatives from Canada and across the world as we collectively develop this important new industry.

What are you looking forward to most about the event?

It’s a good time to hear from all players in the industry, to learn about new innovations and exchange ideas as we define what a healthy, progressive cannabis industry looks like.

Spectrum is an international cannabis brand — can you tell us a bit about your international reach?

Spectrum Cannabis has been recognized by doctors and patients around the world as a leader in medical cannabis. Currently, the Spectrum brand has market presence in eight countries (Canada, Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Brazil, Chile, Australia, Spain).

Spectrum promises medical cannabis simplified. How do you simplify medical cannabis for your patients?

Spectrum Cannabis, our award winning medical brand, and its simple color-coding system is designed to help simplify medical cannabis in the minds of doctors and patients. Each colour represents a category of products according to their ratio of THC and CBD. Patients also benefit by easily being able to order different products such as oil or SoftGels from the colour range recommended by their doctor. Spectrum is truly medical cannabis simplified.

How did you come up with your color-coded cannabis system?

When we spoke to medical professionals and patients, the consensus was there was real need for a clear, easy to understand dosing system. By using the color-coded Spectrum Cannabis theme, patients and doctors are able to easily understand the applications of each Spectrum Cannabis product.

What impact will Canada’s adult-use recreational market have on the medical cannabis industry?

Our primary focus as a cannabis company will always be patients first. We’ve committed publicly that medical customers will always be given priority. The recreational market will open up streams of revenue that we will use to drive product innovation and medical research.

Do you agree with the CMA’s recent statement indicating that with recreational cannabis coming to Canada, there will be no need for a medical cannabis system?

The need for a separate medical system following legalization is an important conversation. As a patient focused organization, we believe it’s essential to have a separate medical system as the medical and recreational uses of cannabis differ. Further, patients expect professional medical oversight when they are using a medical product. People should not have to self-medicate with cannabis simply because it’s recreationally legal.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about the cannabis industry?

The biggest misconception is that medical cannabis is something new to Canadians. Canada has had a medical cannabis program since 2001 and there are currently over 200,000 patients accessing cannabis through the federal system, so we’ve got a proud history to build on as an industry.

What’s one prediction you have for the cannabis industry five years from now?

Five years from now you’ll see a highly professional, global cannabis industry employing large numbers of people in quality jobs, creating significant revenue for governments, and ensuring patients and consumers are receiving high quality, safe cannabis products. You will also see clinical research and product development pushing cannabinoids into the mainstream medical system.

What is one change you'd like to see happen in the cannabis industry in the next year?

Coverage for medical cannabis patients. Currently, patients pay out of pocket for their medicine, which is also taxed. We believe that medical patients should receive equal treatment to those that use other prescribed products for their health.

What’s the most important thing happening in the global cannabis industry right now?

New countries are exploring potential legalization, whether for medical cannabis or recreational cannabis. These opportunities are exiting and as we pursue them the need for international cannabis law reform is becoming increasingly evident.

What's the most exciting part about Canada moving toward legalization?

This is an opportunity for Canada to be the global leader and write the manual for how cannabis can be legalized and moved from the black market and become a force for good. There are incredible opportunities for job creation, revenue generation, and social good including through a reduction in prosecution which has often disproportionately impacted minority communities.

Do you think the Canadian retail model on day one will be the same as the future and will it change? If so, how?

People across Canada will have a front row seat for the evolution of the Canadian retail model over the coming years. How it will all look in five years is anyone’s guess but it’s definitely going to be an exciting time of change and progress as the industry players and consumers get to know each other better. Expect new products, new formats and more retail outlets.

Which country do you think will legalize cannabis next — after Canada?

New Zealand has a referendum planned on the legalization of recreational cannabis so it will be exciting to see where that vote goes. Realistically, this is a global phenomenon and one that’s moving fast.

You can stay up to date with The World Cannabis Congress by visiting the official website.

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