Van Rensburg believes changing stigmas and better education will loosen Ohio’s medical marijuana laws
Nicole Van Rensburg is a partner and co-founder of multiple medicinal marijuana businesses in multiple states, including Bloom Medicinals in Columbus, Ohio. Nicole is also a strategist and recognized subject matter expert on cannabis. MedicateOH asked Nicole a little about her experience as a leading female entrepreneur in the industry. Here’s our interview, which has been edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
MedicateOH: What motivated you get into the cannabis industry?
NVR: I was motivated to pursue the medical cannabis field by the sheer number of people suffering from chronic or terminal illness who know it works. Over the years I have seen tens of thousands of patients with medical conditions and symptoms that medical marijuana helps alleviate.
As a healthcare advocate coming from a family with decades of experience owning and operating medical practices, diagnostic and testing facilities, I saw a need. I saw a solution that can help these patients and one which deserves thoughtful attention, and I chose to do whatever I could to help bring that solution to these suffering patients.
I will never forget those first days at our first dispensary, meeting the patients for the first time and speaking with them. It is remarkable just how sick some of these patients are.
MedicateOH: How does the cannabis industry compare to other industries you’ve worked in before?
NVR: It’s a burgeoning industry with its own challenges, many of which are unique to an industry that does not enjoy federal recognition of its legitimacy, even as science itself has so recognized. Special interests do everything possible to maintain status quo.
To enter the industry, there is a rigorous application process unique to each individual jurisdiction. There is a lot of competition for relatively few available licenses. Despite societal progress, there is still a stigma associated with medical marijuana.
Bloom Medicinals expends a significant amount of its resources to create educational initiatives and events for prospective medical marijuana patients, recommending physicians and community members at large as to the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
MedicateOH: Was it more difficult to break into cannabis as a woman? Or do you feel as a woman you had more opportunities?
NVR: It was certainly more difficult to break into this business as a woman. It’s a male-dominated industry, with men holding many top positions at many medical marijuana companies. While it can be a little daunting it doesn’t deter me and I see it as another challenge, and one that can certainly be overcome.
MedicateOH:What do you both love and hate about the cannabis industry?
NVR: Being part of a brand-new industry without a precedent is very exciting, and I love being at the leading edge of its unfolding. “Hate” is a very strong word that I do not use myself, but I think one of the most challenging aspects of the industry is the influence of special interests that keeps medical cannabis out of the reach of patients who really need it.
MedicateOH: How do you envision a future for cannabis in Ohio?
NVR: I believe that as education proliferates, outdated points of view will naturally resolve and be replaced by more informed and open-minded perspectives. I think that patient demand for medical marijuana will certainly not decline and that as a direct result, Ohioans will let their elected representatives know that they would like expanded access in the form of more facilities, more convenience, less restrictions, and more protections under Ohio law.
MedicateOH: Do you support federal legalization in the US? What would be the biggest implications on your business if cannabis is federally legalized?
NVR: I think the United States has reached a tipping point where recognition at the federal level seems to be inevitable, at least in the form of the decriminalization of cannabis laws. If that were to happen it would obviously impact the ability for scientific research to expand, resulting in an acceleration of the production of new medicinally beneficial cannabis strains. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have an entire team of federally funded leading researchers focused on the genetics of breeding strains of cannabis that could influence the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and completely eliminate PTSD.
MedicateOH: What is the most exciting way you’ve seen cannabis help a patient?
NVR: I cannot choose one—the cancer patient who can play with her child rather than vomiting at her bedside; the epileptic teen who does not have to walk around in near catatonic state because of harsh medications; the grandfather who is not doubled over in abdominal pain; or the military veteran who no longer panics in a crowd or when she hears a loud sound.
MedicateOH: As a company with franchises in multiple states, how has the state of Ohio’s strict laws surrounding cannabis affected your business model?
Every state’s laws are unique and take into consideration the issues affecting their own residents. In our experience, when states have strict laws, they tend to ease as understanding and familiarity grows, and patients and physicians share their thoughts with their elected representatives. Compassion is at the core of Bloom Medicinals’ values, so it is with compassion that we understand the reasons behind strict laws while at the same time demonstrating compliance at every turn.
MedicateOH: Where do you see the cannabis industry in America in five years?
It is without a doubt going to continue to grow. New states will adopt medical cannabis programs while other states will adopt adult use/ recreational programs. The sub-cultural context in which marijuana is often viewed will continue to mature as factual reality replaces fear-based opinions. With an easing of federal restrictions, new science and research will create and new opportunities to breed leading-edge, plant-based medicines that will up-level the industry and increase options for patients suffering from a variety of medical and terminal illnesses. In my opinion, the cannabis industry will double in size within five years.