Ones to Watch 2020: Neil Volner
The inaugural Greenway Ones to Watch class were nominated by their peers as those will be some of the most responsible for setting the tone of Missouri’s newest industry. From activists to consultants to operators themselves, the following industry influencers are responsible for determining not only how the industry overcomes the obstacles of 2020, but how the industry will be better for it. The same questions were asked of all; submitted answers and related information edited for grammar and clarity.
NAME: Neil Volner
COMPANY: North Medical Group, LLC
OPERATING FROM: Pevely, Hillsboro
TITLE: Director of Marketing & Procurement
BACKGROUND: Construction and Music Industries
As a child, I was greatly affected by the imprisonment of a well-respected and close family member for non-violent, cannabis-related offenses. Throughout this period of my childhood, I was told by many people that this family member was a “bad person” or a “criminal.” I was then motivated to find what I truly believed on my own. This was not a bad person. This was a thoughtful, caring, and intelligent person of the highest moral standard. The experience drastically affected my life. I hoped that someday no other family would have to endure the wrath of the failed “war on drugs” as it relates to cannabis, like my family did. This is the cornerstone of my advocacy for the legalization of cannabis.
Later in life, I became more familiar with published research on medical cannabis. Some people use medical cannabis to reduce or eliminate reliance on addictive pharmaceuticals such as opiates. Others use medical cannabis to find pain relief that other pharmaceuticals cannot provide. Personally, I believe we can mitigate the opiate epidemic by providing patients with safe access to medical cannabis. In some cases, cannabis may be a patient’s only viable treatment option.
I stand behind legal cannabis because that means standing up for suffering patients and standing against the splitting of families.
What is your vision of the industry in Missouri?
I envision Missouri’s medical cannabis industry becoming the poster child for what future states want their medical cannabis programs to look like. Despite the hiccups that have taken place (and were to be expected), the program has many positives at this point. We have great communication with our regulatory body and an outstanding sense of community and respect among licensees. I have worked hard with other licensees to share the opportunities that our company North has created. We believe that the success of this program is going to be built on the backs of this community and it is in the best interest of the patients for us to work together. Working together, the possibilities for the Missouri cannabis industry become limitless.
What opportunity/opportunities does the industry create in Missouri?
The industry creates countless opportunities in Missouri. Access to an alternative medicine for suffering patients is the most important one. It specifically creates opportunities with the Missouri Veterans Commission to take better care of our veterans through tax dollars received from our MMJ program. It also gives the citizens of Missouri an opportunity to understand what it is like to live in a state with some level of cannabis legalization. It gives patients freedom from fear of legal consequences for medicating. It gives doctors another option for patients not responding well to traditional medicines. It gives ancillary service providers opportunity to expand their businesses, which in turn grows Missouri’s economy. Lastly, it gives people like me, who would have otherwise become “cannabis refugees,” the opportunity to remain at home and be part of an industry that they’ve only been able to appreciate from afar.
What is one thing you wish all Missourians knew about cannabis?
Over many years of advocacy, I’ve come to realize that cannabis touches the lives of people across all walks of life. There isn’t a single stereotype that accurately portrays all cannabis users. As time goes on, we can all see that stigma is going away. As that stigma continues to disappear, people are learning how cannabis might be beneficial to themselves or someone they know.
One thing I wish that all Missourians knew is that medical cannabis is about more than just the cannabis. It is about all the opportunities that come with it, from drastically improving the lives of suffering patients, to reducing the negative impact and separation of innocent families due to the prohibition of cannabis. The positive effects of cannabis in this state and this community can be boundless.