The Cannabis Caregiver Economy: Why These Workers Deserve Market Access And How States Can Help

Caregivers are at the forefront of the medical cannabis industry, tailoring treatments and providing personalized care for patients.

Despite their vital contributions, their recognition and compensation often fall short. How can caregivers be fairly rewarded for their work, and what challenges do they face?

According to Lou Pino, a veteran event organizer and caregiver on the East Coast and founder of Gene Traders, an event dedicated to exchanging cannabis strains, the caregiver economy is an essential component of the industry that needs more support and understanding.

“Being a caregiver comes with its share of challenges. Often, caregivers must bear the financial burden of their work, paying for everything out of their own pockets. This includes purchasing supplies, services, and equipment. It's a demanding role that requires a significant investment, both financially and emotionally,” Pino explained.

Caregiving is far from free work. It’s an endeavor that costs caregivers their own money to ensure patients receive the personalized care they need. In an exclusive interview with Benzinga, Pino shared his insights on how caregivers can navigate these challenges while also fostering innovation and diversity in cannabis cultivation.

Gene Traders: Exchanging Medicine

"In 2013, I was organizing medical events in Rhode Island to help educate people about what cannabis works best for various conditions," Pino said.

Recognizing the lack of resources for cultivators, he created Gene Traders as an event for exchanging knowledge and resources. "The most valuable thing about Gene Traders is, yes, the access to genetics, but it's the conversation, months with just a few sentences," he said.

Gene Traders provides access to genetics and fosters collaboration among cultivators. These intimate cannabis events, typically gathering around 300 to 500 people in a single day, are lively hubs where cultivators and breeders showcase their plants, set up informative booths and share insights on growing, crossing and breeding.

It's a vibrant scene, filled with experts eager to exchange knowledge and celebrate the craft of cannabis cultivation. "The conversations and collaborations are more important than just buying genetics," he said. The event's exchange of knowledge is invaluable, helping growers save time and improve their practices.

One reason why events like Gene Traders are important is that they facilitate the growth of whole plants for medical patients.

The entourage effect refers to the synergistic interaction between the various compounds in cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which together create a therapeutic effect greater than the sum of their parts.

This effect is vital for the endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating various bodily functions, including pain, mood, and appetite. “Tailored treatments using whole-plant cannabis are often more effective for medical patients, as they can address specific needs and conditions more precisely than isolated compounds,” Pino continued.

By fostering an environment where cultivators can share knowledge and collaborate, Gene Traders helps to ensure that patients have access to the best possible treatments.

The Caregiver Gene Pool: Fostering Innovation

Caregivers play a critical role in expanding the gene pool through sharing and collaboration at events like Gene Traders. "Without the caregiver or the home market, it would be very difficult for us to get new names because it's too expensive to hunt through genetics in a commercial facility."

The innovative environment fostered by caregivers leads to distinctive cannabis profiles that enrich the market.

Oino explained that developing different genetic profiles to treat different conditions "is highly dependent on the resources home cultivators have."

Depending on these resources, caregivers, and growers can contribute to the development of premium, unique cannabis profiles that stand out in the market.

By nurturing a diverse gene pool, caregivers who grow their own

contribute to a rich tapestry of cannabis varieties, ensuring the industry continues to evolve and cater to diverse consumer needs.

Access To The Market For Caregivers

According to Pino, states like Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have favorable caregiver laws, while states like Connecticut and New York are more restrictive.

"For example, Michigan allows caregivers to grow up to 72 plants," Pino pointed out. However, in Connecticut the limit is just "three in veg and three in flower," which restricts caregivers' ability to experiment and develop new strains.

Pino highlighted the importance of compensating caregivers fairly.

He mentioned that some states allow caregivers to sell their surplus to dispensaries, which helps medical markets flourish. He said, "If caregivers can pass testing, they should be able to sell to the medical market."

Pino also noted how government involvement and red tape can hinder cultivators from getting their products to market​.

Pino suggested a straightforward approach. "Once you pass testing, you should be able to pull out your income, pay taxes, and keep moving forward. This practical solution supports caregivers and contributes to a vibrant cannabis industry."

Photo: AI-Generated Image. 

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Posted In: CannabisNewsEducationHealth CarePoliticsLegalExclusivesMarketsInterviewGeneralConnecticut CannabisEntourage EffectGene TradersLou PinoMedical Marijuana caregiversminor cannabinoids
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