Behind the Scenes: A Pharmacist’s Perspective on Dispensary Life

by Jan 12, 2021Spotlight

In celebration of National Pharmacist Day, which is January 12th, I wanted to provide some insight on a day in the life of a pharmacist working in a medical marijuana dispensary.

When people find out that I’m a pharmacist working for a medical marijuana company and seeing patients in a dispensary setting, their response is “Cool! You sell weed. Must be an easy job to just hang out and sell weed all day”. I wish my job was as easy as their assumption. The reality is that the cannabis industry in Pennsylvania is highly regulated and we have a high standard at The Apothecarium when it comes to our consultation process. The dispensaries have specific regulations to follow from how product/deliveries are received to making sure labels are placed on each purchased product just as in a regular retail pharmacy, but the pharmacists play a large role as well. Pharmacists not only have to follow the regulations set forth by the Department of Health (DOH), but also need to comply with both State and Federal Pharmacist regulations and guidelines as well.

Per the PA DOH regulations, Pharmacists need to be on staff in order for the dispensary doors to even be open. Pharmacists are also required to perform consultations and check a patient’s certification on the DOH website and note if the certifying physician has made any restrictions for any form of consumption. At the Apothecarium, we have a patient intake form that all new patients are required to complete. This provides the Pharmacist with the information they need to denote any drug interactions with cannabis, allergy issues with specific products, other medical issues/concern, etc.

During a consultation at the Apothecarium, Pharmacists’ first review the patient’s intake form and verify the patient’s certification and note any restriction on the DOH website. When the consultation begins, the pharmacist will discuss the patient’s medical history, provide general cannabis education and review the various forms of consumption that are available in the dispensary. The Pharmacist will also counsel the patient on any prescription/OTC drug and/or alcohol interactions and find out what the patient’s goals are and what they would like to achieve utilizing cannabis as part of their medical regimen. At that point, the Pharmacist will recommend a treatment plan for the patient based on their medical issues/concerns, their goals and the forms of consumption they’re most comfortable medicating with. Written directions are provided when needed along with some additional educational materials if appropriate. The patient is escorted to the dispensary area by the Pharmacist so the products being purchased can be reviewed one last time. Pharmacists will follow up with patients on their progress and offer advice on titration along with answering any follow-up questions.

As a Pharmacist working in a medical marijuana dispensary, the job is actually very clinical and rewarding. It provides us the opportunity to help patients with their medical issues using the clinical skills we were taught in pharmacy school along with trying to solve the medical mysteries of cannabis that are still unknown.

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