Curating thought leaders: Meet Jonathan Wiser from Global Cannabis Institute

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By Dr Julie Moltke

How do you create an interactive conference for thought-leaders across the European cannabis industry, from policy-makers to medical researchers? Jonathan Wiser from GCI explains.

1. What is the Global Cannabis Institute?

The Global Cannabis Institute is a global community of leaders across the cannabis value-chain, with a key focus on those who are operating in Europe and/or looking to expand their operations in Europe. Across each sector of the industry, we bring together the best minds in the field, those folks who offer original perspectives and cutting-edge solutions. With our peer-to-peer community connections, thought leadership summits and business media (amongst other services), the Global Cannabis Institute connects the leaders at the forefront of shaping the industry in Europe and provides platforms for them to do so. 

2. What is your mission in the cannabis space?

A key focus area for us is around increasing access to cannabis and cannabis derivatives for medicine, health and wellness. Europe is a particularly fractured market. There are a multitude of complex regulatory regimes across each country, and that’s before you even think about EU legislation. As a result, all over the continent, there are pioneers spearheading amazing projects, but through no fault of their own, they often find themselves siloed. The Global Cannabis Institute looks to bring these thought leaders together with their counterparts from around the world, to meet fellow brilliant minds in the industry. Through close collaboration and knowledge sharing, the best in business, tech, research, medicine and policy can work together and devise solutions which will facilitate the socially responsible increase of access to cannabis and cannabis derivatives.

3. When is your next conference and what are the key topics? 

Coming up in November, we have GCI Europe in London. It’s a thought leadership summit with co-located conferences focused on Business Strategy and Medicine, Research & Science. There are also breakout streams which focus on Cannabis and Hemp Cultivation, Key Canna Economies in Europe, and Ancillary Services. In addition to this, there are Keynote sessions that concentrate on Policy Makers and Shapers, Diversity in the Cannabis Industry, and the Patients’ Perspective.

4. We see a lot of different cannabis conferences around the world. How are you different? 

We have a unique format different to ‘traditional’ conferences you may have been to before. Often you hear from people that the most valuable conversations they have at events - both in and outside of cannabis - take place outside of the conference rooms. The format for GCI Europe turns that on its head. Our highly interactive and intimate format means you’re as likely (if not more!) to start building those valuable relationships inside of the conference rooms. That’s not to say that you won’t also have amazing conversations with folks you’ve bumped into while having a coffee, beer or vape! However, our capped, pre-qualified audience of leaders makes it more likely that you will meet like-minded professionals who you’re best placed to collaborate with. GCI Europe is a meeting of minds that are at the forefront of shaping the European cannabis industry. 

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge and the most significant advantage for the industry right now? 

One of the biggest challenges is avoiding cannabis being treated with the archaic, cookie-cutter models used to govern other industries. Knowledge and expertise must be at the centre of the legislative process. For an effective policy to exist, I believe that each nation should create a special cannabis agency made up of industry specialists who can best advise on policy. This currently exists in only a small handful of European countries but has proven successful when deployed. It shouldn’t surprise lawmakers that those working in the industry are advocating safe and responsible access to this amazing plant, and are in the best position to advise accordingly. 

With that in mind, one of the greatest advantages at our disposal is the wealth of specialists in the field who are able to help shape the future of the industry, be it in medical research or policy. There is a great opportunity here. Agree or disagree with Boris Johnson’s politics; I believe the hiring of Blair Gibbs (formerly of the Centre for Medical Cannabis) as an aide at Number 10 was a very smart move. Here’s an example of a prominent member of the cannabis community being invited to take a leading role in shaping future legislation in the UK - we need to encourage more appointments like this. Moreover, we should draw on the insights of experts, both domestically and internationally.

6. How do you believe we can give more people access to medicinal cannabis? 

For me, it’s simple - education. If I can use the UK as an example, medical cannabis was legalised at the back-end of 2018, however, collectively a few octopuses could count on their tentacles how many prescriptions have been handed out! Why? Well, part of it is due to regulatory restrictions. Yet the key to all of this is that doctors aren’t going to advocate for and have the willingness to prescribe something that they don’t know a huge deal about. There need to be more mechanisms in place for medical practitioners to access information on cannabis as a treatment, its benefits, risks, dosages, etc. Once clinicians can make informed decisions on whether they do or don’t want to prescribe cannabis and cannabis-derivatives for certain conditions, we’ll hopefully see more GPs trying to influence medical bodies and government to release the reins on access, which should, in turn, increase access for the patients that need it the most.

Are you planning on joining the GCI Europe 2019?