Nowadays, it seems like almost every appointment and meeting is virtual.
While the ease and convenience of platforms like Zoom have transformed everything from education to healthcare since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember things weren’t always this way.
This is especially true for medical cannabis patients.
For Rob Tankson, a former Wall Street analyst who transitioned to tech, safe access has always been an important issue.
The serial entrepreneur and angel investor recognized in 2015 there was a real need for reliable ways for potential medical marijuana patients to be evaluated by physicians and approved for their state-issued program cards.
At the time, Tankson was living in San Francisco, California.
Medical cannabis had been legal in the state for nearly two decades but the barriers to entry were vast.
Finding a qualified provider willing to certify individuals could be an issue and for people with disabilities, getting to those appointments served an even greater challenge.
“Medical card mills” popped up, offering up recommendations with little actual insight and education for the patients.
Tankson went to his colleague Kyle Powers at ClearSlide, a booming tech firm, and discussed the need for a solution in the emerging medical cannabis industry.
The two decided to start a new company solely focused on providing the tools patients needed to start their plant medicine journeys.
PrestoDoctor, one of the first full-service telemedicine services designed for medical marijuana patients was the result.
“We came together to launch PrestoDoctor as we saw a broken process with medical cannabis recommendations,” Tankson told Cannabis & Tech Today.
“This included a lack of pricing transparency, professionalism, and cannabis knowledge in medical marijuana evaluations being conducted in the California market.”
Compassion and Credibility Come First
Since its inception, PrestoDoctor has connected over 175,000 people seeking medical cannabis cards with compassionate, licensed doctors across the U.S offering quick and easy private virtual consultations.
Currently operating in eight states, the company prides itself on putting patients’ needs first, ensuring each healthcare professional they team with understands the unique needs of medical marijuana consumers.
The platform not only connects patients with friendly and experienced healthcare professionals in a simple and cost-effective manner.
They also provide custom product recommendations and dosing information, as well as exclusive offers for local dispensaries.
The company’s aim is to be a one-stop-shop solution for those needing secure and credible introductions to the market.
“We are the only service to offer a personalized cannabis treatment plan with every appointment,” said Tankson. “We carefully vet all of our physicians to ensure that they have adequate knowledge about the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant and drug interactions.”
Pandemic Leads to Reliance on Telehealth
The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up the PrestoDoctor’s expansion plans as stay-at-home became the new normal.
For better or for worse, several legal markets that once required in-person visits changed their laws to reflect the changing times.
“Our plan has drastically changed since the pandemic,” Tankson explained. “Previously, we could expand to less than 20 states as most had telemedicine legislation that required that the doctor-to-patient relationship had to be established in person. Many states enacted emergency legislation to update this stance and as a result, we can now expand to almost 40 states. About 90% of cannabis card evaluations are non-invasive so telemedicine is an excellent solution.”
Tankson added the expedited growth opportunity will help PrestoDoctor continue its mission while preparing for the future of the burgeoning alternative wellness space.
The company, which was acquired by Cannabis Sativa Inc. (OTCQB: CBDS) in August 2017 at a $9M valuation, is set to launch in four more markets this year alone.
“We want to expand patient access and cannabis knowledge while becoming a household name across the country and eventually across the globe. While we launch with a focus on telemedicine we plan to expand to offer evaluations for other types of plant medicine as legislation allows.”
“Representation is Everything.”
Informing the population about the potentials of cannabis is an important piece of PrestoDoctor’s mission.
Growing up as a person of color outside of Chicago, when legalization was a mere dream, Tankson understands the difficulty in reducing fear and stigma around medical cannabis especially for minorities, who have historically been the most adversely affected by the so-called “War on Drugs.”
He often speaks of his concerns over telling his mother of his intentions to get into the cannabis space all those years ago, only to be surprised by her response: she had already been researching the plant’s medical abilities and was an eager proponent of her son’s newfound calling.
This, combined with enthusiastic responses from people within his community, motivated Tankson to forge ahead.
“Representation is everything. When I started in the industry I wasn’t a fan of public speaking but after I did it a few times young Black kids and peers would come to me with excitement afterward. They expressed gratitude that someone that looks like them was in the industry and it was inspiring.”
“I feel an extra responsibility, which I happen to accept, to be a role model for other young entrepreneurs,” he continued. “I want them to see that there are PoC that start and lead successful cannabis companies and inspire others to step up, show up and share what they know.”
Tankson added that while expanding access is the true core mission at PrestoDoctor, the company is also working toward steering the proverbial ship in the direction of legitimacy, inclusion, and acceptance.
“We are committed to changing the narrative behind cannabis and helping end the negative stigmas. The goal is to make cannabis a first option instead of a last resort. This will come with education and reeducation. On a personal level, I’m committed to showing up and helping people that face some of the same challenges that I have in my journey. I’m an angel investor in two minority-owned startups and I plan to make more strategic investments and in the future.”