Editorial

Medical Marijuana and Content Marketing

Disrupting a $1.5 trillion pharmaceutical market takes both head and heart.


According to my personal brand archetype, I like “changing the game with creativity.” To translate that into modern marketing parlance, I’m built to disrupt things. To create concrete, measurable change.

My other trait always flagged by archetyping? Purpose. I’m a small business owner who, of course, wants to lead a successful organization. But I also want us to make a difference — that’s where I find the real reward.

So, disruption and purpose – think of it as the what and the why. Or the head and the heart. It’s this combination that’s driving us to make Imprint a leading marketing agency in the medical marijuana industry.

Following the head: the numbers are compelling

The pharmaceutical industry’s expected compounded annual growth rate of 9% would drive 2022 revenue over $1.5 trillion, fueled mostly by chemically created drugs. And then here comes medical marijuana — an organic, non-addictive potential solution for many ailments. Talk about a scenario poised for disruption!

And I see content marketing as particularly well suited to drive that disruption. There are reams of scientific research begging to be turned into consumable, relatable, life-changing content collections. When distributed to the right audiences, such content has the power to create major behavior shifts toward these remedies. And the market shifts will follow.

Not convinced about the storytelling potential? Let’s look at Parkinson’s Disease. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, 60,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year. Ten million people worldwide live with this disease. The Mayo Clinic describes it as “a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.” To me, that’s a very kind depiction of what happens. There is no set progression — the disease affects each person differently — and there is no cure. It’s slow and debilitating.

The drug market for Parkinson’s is estimated at $6 billion in 2022. At the same time, the medicinal benefits of cannabis for Parkinson’s patients are being aggressively explored — and embraced. It turns out that cannabis is most often used to treat the core symptoms of Parkinson’s that a leading drug, Levodopa, also addresses: pain, anxiety, sleep disturbance, tremors and stiffness.

Following the heart: improving quality of life

Parkinson’s is a great example of how medical marijuana can disrupt an entire industry. I also speak about Parkinson’s because it hits at my heart: The disease took my mother in 2020. After losing much muscular ability, particularly in her legs, she suffered many of the ailments I’ve already listed, including pain, tremors, anxiety and frustration forming and expressing thoughts. Since every Parkinson’s patient is on a different journey, there’s a seemingly constant trial (and error) of drug treatments. The key factor in this exploration is time — one thing my mother and most Parkinson’s sufferers lack. Seeing which drugs are working can take a tremendous amount of time, as can tapering down from those that aren’t effective.

My mother’s doctor suggested using cannabis, referring a colleague who could consult us on and prescribe medical marijuana. That was good fortune, since according to a Fox Insight study (associated with the Michael J. Fox Foundation), nearly two-thirds of marijuana users for Parkinson’s had not received a recommendation to use cannabis from a licensed doctor or provider. Over 30% of respondents in the study did not discuss their use of cannabis with their physician. About 13% were unable to identify the specific cannabis product they were using and one-third didn’t know the exact dosage they were taking.

Based on the education we received, trying medical marijuana to improve quality of life bore essentially no risk. Compared to introducing a new synthetic drug, which could take weeks for its effect to be realized, cannabis gets into a patient’s system quickly, with no residual effects. It goes in, does its thing and is gone. No addiction and no negative reactions like those caused by many prescribed drugs.

But from my experience, there are negative reactions to cannabis use: the stigma and, in New York, felony laws. In the full-care unit of my mother’s retirement home, where she was required to live based on her symptoms, the nurses would not administer the treatment. To them, the few drops under my mother’s tongue was the equivalent of shooting her up with heroin. Because of her lack of motor skills, my mother was incapable of administering the drops herself. Nor was she able to hold or operate a vaping device.

I could never really tell what was driving the nurses’ behavior: fear, personal bias, administrative restrictions or a combination. Here was a way to improve someone’s quality of life; yet there were so many barriers to change.

Running toward complexity

Here’s where heart and head come together for me. Exploring the use of medical marijuana for my mother’s Parkinson’s symptoms showed me just how much education is needed. In our case, there were distinct audiences, including patients, caregivers, medicinal administrators and nurses. There’s certainly not a lack of sources of educational content for these audiences, including scientific research, legal requirements and personal anecdotes. The problem lies in how the content is created and distributed — or rather, how it’s not.

Around this point in my own educational journey, I realized how perfect this situation was for Imprint. How this created an opportunity to achieve real purpose. How with the right mix of head and heart, we could do so much to make a difference in this industry and for people in need.

At Imprint, we have a history of running toward and thriving in complexity. Most of our clients are in highly regulated industries operating in complex content ecosystems. The messier the situation, the more we have to offer — and the more our clients benefit from our partnership.

And that’s what powers my story of Imprint leaping headfirst into the chaotic mess that is medicinal marijuana. We did our research, the highlights of which you’ll find in our report, Ready to Launch: The State of Content Marketing in the U.S. Legalized Cannabis Industry. You can download it here.

Our hearts are in it: We understand the potential for medical cannabis to improve lives. And our heads are filled with ideas for putting content marketing to the work of educating and disrupting. If that work is important to you, too, I’d love to connect.

Note: April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Learn more about Parkinson’s at: https://www.parkinson.org/ and https://www.michaeljfox.org/.