Should marijuana be legal? It’s an ongoing question in America, and the number of Americans in favor is on the rise. More than 61 percent believe it should be (almost double than 2000), according to a Pew Research Center survey in January. More and more states are also jumping on board with 29 of them having legalized its medical use. Nine states and Washington D.C. also allow the recreational use. Still toying with the idea of legalizing its recreational use, New York legalized medical use in 2014.
Yet, marijuana use is still illegal under federal law. Supporters push for change as they stress the cannabis plant’s medical benefits. It may even be a solution to the country’s opioid crisis, said Barry Blair, founder of Rhode Island Cannabis Company, which provides medical marijuana to patients in need. (It hits close to home with the most ever—at least 600 people—having died from opioid overdoses on Long Island in 2017.) Blair spoke more about his company’s mission, the benefits of medical marijuana and 420, also known as “Weed Day.”
What is the mission of Rhode Island Cannabis Company?
To provide high-quality, tested, pesticide-free cannabis medicine for patients that are looking for a different avenue than opioids. Our group is comprised of some of the most knowledgeable inner cannabis community folks, coast to coast. Our grandfathers and fathers were part of the hippie generation on the West Coast in the Emerald Triangle (the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S.). Now that it’s legal, we’ve come out of the mountains and are able to legally test cannabis to find out exactly what it is that’s helping people with their chronic illnesses. Our facility is in the process of being designed…Our intent is to open a world class dispensary and production and processing facility that will provide a sterile pharmaceutical environment with a science lab and all of the necessary aspects that we will need to be able to test and find exactly what it is…that’s curing epilepsy and pain and chronic illness…Our intent is to make the medical sector priority.
What made you want to get involved in this business?
Seven years ago, my wife worked at Women & Infants Hospital [in Rhode Island] in oncology and many of the younger doctors were prescribing medical marijuana as opposed to opioids. At the time, we were looking for a new vocation and when we started watching the news and reading the paper and she was talking about what they were doing at the hospital, we said, “Well, let’s explore this.” And we did. I contacted my friends on the West Coast and they said, “Barry, when you’re ready to do it, you let us know and we’ll come down and help you set up your facility.”
In Rhode Island, you can be a state licensed caregiver, which allows you to build and produce a facility with a limited number of plants and provide that medicine to x amount of patients with your medicine…We knew it was going to be a way for us to pay our bills. But once we saw what it was really doing for the patients, we got hooked big time. We became extremely passionate about the medical aspect.
What are the benefits that you’ve seen firsthand?
I have a cancer patient that went through chemotherapy. He had terrible back pain from the chemotherapy. There’s a product that we produce called RSO, Rick Simpson Oil, and it’s taken sublingual for this particular patient. The next day, after the first time it was prescribed, he called and said, “Barry, I can’t believe what’s happening. I have to take about the size of a grain of rice at the end of a toothpick, every four to six hours, but my pain is gone. And I haven’t picked up a Vicodin since.”
I have a friend who became a licensed caregiver because his daughter who is 8 years old was having about 50-75 epileptic attacks per week. He gave her a similar type of concentrate sublingually and her attacks went to down to 2-5 a week.
Do you see a future where all states will have legalized medical marijuana?
There may be a few below the Bible Belt that will hang in there till the end, but eventually I believe that the federal government will see the light and the pressure will be put upon them. I think it’s going to be one of the main topics for the reelection of certain officials…It may not happen in two years, it may take five years—I don’t think it will take longer than five years. But I think eventually you will see it drop from a schedule 1 (drugs with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in treatment) to a schedule 2 (drugs with high potential for abuse but with accepted medical use in treatment) drug. I think you will see it become federally legal.
How do you feel about 420?
It’s the national holiday for the cannabis culture. It should be a day that everyone really takes the time to reeducate themselves on what it means going forward. The whole cannabis culture movement gives people the option, a different road to get off opioids because opioids are one of the biggest problems we have in our country. It should be recognized as the day we could look back to the year before and look forward to the year coming and see how we’ve progressed. It would be nice to look at that chart that shows opioid use on the downslide and it being directly contributed to people that are discovering the incredible medical advantages to non-addictive cannabis use.