The Clinic: Conn. Pharmacists Go To Marijuana School

When Connecticut’s medical marijuana dispensaries finally open their doors, likely sometime this summer or fall, they’ll each have a licensed pharmacist on hand to help oversee the distribution of cannabis medicine to qualified patients. It sounds great, except that since marijuana remains federally illegal, none of those pharmacists have actually gone through any educational training surrounding the use of the herbal remedy. Many have, in fact, been steadily absorbing the government’s propaganda campaign against cannabis for decades, while receiving much of their ongoing education directly from the pharmaceutical industry.

That’s why the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, in a wonderful sign of the times, recently sponsored a conference attended by nearly 200 pharmacists, plus doctors, and other medical professionals interested in learning more about cannabis and how best to distribute it to patients. Attendees heard lectures on how medical cannabis is grown and processed, clinic trials showing its effectiveness in treating various conditions, warnings about potential dangers, and information on proper dosage, various strains, and different preparations like concentrates and edibles.

“It’s like any new drug that comes out,” Margherita R. Giuliano, a pharmacist and executive vice president of the 800-member Connecticut Pharmacists Association explained to the Connecticut Post. “Pharmacists are going to be getting educated. Most of the pharmacy schools do introduce marijuana as a drug. This is really not significantly different, but there is some difference because not all of those clinical trials and research has been done. Everybody has to get up to speed with how this is going to affect the body; what it does; and really just become updated on what the knowledge is. The pharmacist will know whether a patient is taking medication for schizophrenia.”

Well, it’s like any new drug that comes out except for the fact that people have been using it for thousands of years. Which is actually an important point when considering the relative safety of cannabis when compared with pharmaceutical drugs and other conventional treatments — one that undercuts the often repeated claim that “we just don’t know the dangers” of marijuana use.

So far, Connecticut has licensed six dispensaries in the state, and over 2,000 patients have already registered. Each must meet one of eleven specific conditions — including cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s and Parkinson’s—though hopefully once local medical professionals see first-hand how safe and effective cannabis medicine really is, they’ll start pushing to expand that list.

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