How to break into the medical cannabis industry - Philly


May 4, 2017 12:59 pm

How to break into the medical cannabis industry

Find your passion and then incorporate cannabis into it, said KannaLife Sciences CEO Dean Petkanas.
Alongside a panel of industry professionals, Dr. Ari C. Greis (second from left) speaks to medical cannabis in Pennsylvania to a crowd of over 100 attendees.

Alongside a panel of industry professionals, Dr. Ari C. Greis (second from left) speaks to medical cannabis in Pennsylvania to a crowd of over 100 attendees.

(Photo by Danielle Corcione)

As new medical cannabis economies emerge, technology companies are collaborating with scientists to develop innovative ways to dispense cannabis products.

But there is still so much we don’t know. Because the Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug, progress is slow to make. The substance is difficult to acquire legally even for scientific and medical research purposes.

However, we’re headed in a different direction. An updated study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine revealed over 100 conclusions to the benefits of medicinal cannabis, including the ability to treat certain cancers, diseases, mental health disorders and injuries. To date, this study is one of the most comprehensive in cannabis research, which speaks to the lack of available scholarly research on the subject. The study’s previous version, which was published 20 years ago, claimed there were no medicinal benefits to cannabis whatsoever.

Clearly, much has changed within the past two decades.

In conversation alongside moderator law associate Robert “B.J.” Clark, a panel of four local professionals provided insight into Pennsylvania’s emerging medical cannabis industry and how technology can get involved. The event, part of Philly Tech Week 2017 presented by Comcast, was hosted by law firm Ballard Spahr.

Here are some of our main takeaways.

Know what you’re good at and incorporate cannabis into it.

  • Dean Petkanas, CEO of Doylestown-based pharmaceutical company KannaLife Sciences, emphasized exercising your passion within the cannabis field. If your strengths are big data or medicinal chemistry, for instance, experts in those fields are needed in cannabis. From his background in corporate finance, he mentioned new canna-businesses will need advertising services to successfully brand and market their upcoming products.

Legal constraints make it difficult for medical professionals to identify appropriate doses of cannabis products for their patients.


  • J. Cobb Scott, assistant professor of psychology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, stressed the lack of knowledge on the side effects and psychological risks associated with the psychoactive potential (for psychosis and other mental conditions) of cannabis, even medically. Many clinical studies are conducted in other countries, using cannabis products that are currently illegal in the United States, even in states with medical and recreational laws.

Understand that even cannabis is limited.

  • Cannabis is “not good for everything and not good for everyone,” said Ari C. Greis, doctor of orthopedic medicine through the Rothman Institute. Certain patients, for example, may have higher risk factors, such as their neurological genetic mark-up (like being more prone to psychosis or addiction) and environment (like an unstable household).

Scientists are still developing ways to improve the quality of cannabis plants.

  • Mike Jenkins, director of cultivation at Franklin BioScience, optimizes cannabis plants by manipulating their environments. During the plant’s growth cycle, the horticulturist closely examines the plant’s gas exchanges (particularly with carbon exchanges) and experiments with adding UV light at certain stages. These methods can greatly alter and improve the effects cannabis has in treating medical issues.

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