Black techies behind Veriheal seek to de-stigmatize cannabis
Samuel Adetunji and Joshua Green are the masterminds behind a Cannatech platform that supplies medical marijuana cards and education to patients
Former corporate Fortune 500 coworkers, and serial entrepreneurs Joshua Green and Samuel Adetunji took their passion for technology, business, and cannabis to create the innovative Cannatech platform Veriheal – providing medical marijuana cards to patients.
Cannatech platforms like Veriheal — formerly named OnePath Medical — are online spaces involving technology connecting patrons to people in the cannabis industry; such as doctors and patients.
What seems to make Veriheal unique from other Cannatech platforms alike is its hyperfocus on education. Veriheal focuses not only on facilitating relationships with patrons and the cannabis industry, but it helps people to understand the major benefits of the plant.
theGrio caught up with Green and Adetunji to discuss how patrons in need can obtain medical marijuana cards through Veriheal, how the platform is changing the negative stigmas surrounding cannabis, and the importance of keeping service at the core of their company culture.
“Sam and I cofounded Veriheal on the premise of helping other people and making things easier for them,” Green told theGrio. “What we did when we first started out, was test out a concept and then built an environment where patients could connect with doctors, based on patterns we noticed.
“The demand for cannabis medical cards was there and Sam and I are tech people so from that point really early on, we wanted to use technology to advance the company [Veriheal]. So we moved into a Cannatech platform.”
Veriheal is a mobile and desktop-friendly website that operates like an app, even though it is not available for download right now. According to Green, it took over a span of nine months to build out the initial framework for the platform, and since then has been running smoothly for two years.
As the cannabis industry continues to grow, spotting key Black industry players is still scarce.
“We both saw an opportunity in an industry where people like us or that look like us, have gotten in trouble for it in the past,” Adetunji said, referring to the disproportionate number of African Americans caught up in the criminal justice system over marijuana.
“We saw an opportunity to get involved in an industry where we can also make a difference and make a statement that people like us can do this legally. We wanted to do something legitimate and that we knew would take off.”
Green added, “We are very passionate about cannabis … we enjoy it very much. But it also had to do with timing and opportunity.”
“Technology is on the forefront and data has been the topic of conversation for the last 15 years. The last five years have been about cryptocurrency, and cannabis has now taken the new frontier. It was the best avenue for us and we haven’t looked back since.”
Veriheal connects patrons to cannabis-educated physicians through an online portal. Eligibility for medical marijuana cards depends on the ailments a person may have, but ultimately it boils down to your zip code.
“Basically it all depends on where you live,” Adetunji explained.
“Like in California cannabis is recreationally available, but that’s not the case everywhere else … so everyone won’t be able to get a medical cannabis card. But people who actually use it for medicinal reasons will want to get that card. For the most part almost anyone can get access to a medical marijuana card, there’s a ton of benefits from cannabis.”
The initial step for someone to obtain a medical marijuana card is through a consultation set up with a physician through the Veriheal website. Although Green and Adetunji focus primarily on facilitating the relationships between the patients, physicians, and the online community with education, they do not have to deal with any production or transportation of the plant.
“That’s what the consultations with the doctors are for. We created the platform where we have physicians with extensive education on cannabis and how it heals and helps the body. Depending on that conversation with the doctor, it will give that patient information on if cannabis will help them or not,” said Adetunji.
“A lot of this is trial and error. Some strains will help patients for different ailments. But all of our doctors believe in, and love the plant. They have studied it and most use it as well. Our hope is that as time goes on all insurance companies will take care of costs for this. We’re just scratching the surface.”
There are many benefits to a patron getting cannabis from a licensed dispensary versus anyone in the streets, the Veriheal owners argued.
“I mean every marijuana smoker has gotten cannabis from the general guy down the street before, but in tenfold, you could be getting something from someone who isn’t even sure of what they are giving you,” Adetunji said.
“They may not know if it’s a sativa or indica. You may not be getting the right weight of what you actually are trying to purchase. The whole idea could be sketchy. Dispensaries give you peace of mind,” he adds. “You know what you are getting and you can walk out not feeling like you did something illegal with a receipt in your hand. Purchasing it on the street can be like rolling dice.”
Today, which marks the popular cannabis holiday “4/20,” Veriheal plans to continue to change the negative stigmas surrounding the cannabis plant.
“One thing that differentiates us from other companies in the market — including other platforms and dispensaries — is in addition to service, we put a big emphasis in our company on education,” Green said.
“We spend a lot of money in generating creative content that will live forever online. We give a lot of free education online. Every month we hyperfocus on changing the stigma of cannabis. We’re slowly starting to see things change as cannabis is viewed as more of a medicine.”
Illegal marijuana distribution and possession are still leading causes of incarceration especially for Black men. However, Green and Adetunji, who are also Black cannabis users, are working their way to the forefront to encourage the legalization of marijuana nationwide — and they’re doing it through Veriheal’s education.
“We’re all for it,” Adetunji said. “People should know that dispensaries offer products that regular patrons can’t have access to. We see a tremendous growth in the number of patrons that want to see doctors and get a card for different reasons like tax benefits, the different products they can get, and peace of mind.
“The only concern we would have is the abuse of cannabis because you know, you can abuse anything. With the medical cannabis cards there is a cap on what you can purchase.”
As the stressors continue to rise during COVID-19, Green and Adetunji ensured that their company is accomodating its employees and the patients who use their services.
The pair launched a scholarship fund called the Innovation in Cannabis Scholarship, which will award thousands of dollars to students as a relief for families impacted by the pandemic. They will also donate funds to various organizations every month.
Business, computer science, or nursing students who can see the potential growth in the cannabis industry, or any student with a direct or indirect interest in cannabis can apply.
“One thing that’s really important for Sam and me as key industry players is the importance of giving back to the patients and communities that helped us,” Green said.
Despite the toll that COVID-19 has had on various businesses, the Veriheal founders say they have managed to stay afloat — and plan to keep it that way.
“We’ve gone from a company of three people to 30 in just two years,” Green said. “During COVID we are able to serve enough patients where no one at Veriheal has lost their jobs. We all love the work that we do.”