According to CEO Heyward Donigan, pharmacists at Rite Aid can now advise customers on homeopathic alternatives to more mainstream, over-the-counter and prescription medications. They are trained on holistic remedies and are encouraged to help customers find alternative treatments that pair well with the medicine they are taking over the counter or through prescriptions.
“They really are now experts to be able to consult with you about the proven, the worth trying, and then, of course, the traditional medicine,” Donigan said.
Some of the popular treatments that are available so far are melatonin, lavender, aromatherapy treatments, elderberry, and zinc. And of course, there is CBD, which is a major step forward for the chain. While they are still not offering cannabis prescriptions or recreational sales, and could not do so legally, this is still one of the most cannabis-friendly moves from a large pharmacy chain.
The rise in cannabis popularity, along with even more states medically legalizing and talks of federal legalization, is not lost on Donigan. She explains that, along with this move, the company is closely watching the evolution of legal cannabis.
Rite Aid Is Not Alone When It Comes To CBD
While cannabis in pharmacies of any kind are new and exciting for the U.S., other countries have already made the leap. Ontario offers medical cannabis through the Canadian chain Shoppers Drug Mart. Patients who are licensed for medical cannabis have to submit paperwork to shop medically with the pharmacy, and recreational sales are still not available from pharmacies.
Under the regulations from Health Canada, the only legal way to sell medical cannabis is via mail order from licensed sellers to patients. Shoppers Drug Mart gets around this by getting a license to work with providers and get the medicine to their patients.
The chain began serving the Ontario area back in 2018, two years after they first applied. Now, they are legal to sell products like vape pens and other accessories through their online portal. They can also sell dried and fresh cannabis, seeds, plants and oils to medical patients with the proper documentation.
Germany is also no stranger to the world of pharmacies and cannabis. German law makes pharmacies a very important piece in the supply chain, as they are the ones who are able to get cannabis to their patients and even prescribe. This makes pharmacies the front line of care for patients in the European country.
In fact, German apothekes, or pharmacists, have a lot on their shoulders when it comes to medical cannabis, as they act as doctor, distributor, insurance company and seller for those seeking medication Pharmacies in Germany still operate on more of the old-school model where your family pharmacist helps address many medical needs, and when it comes to the front lines of cannabis, they stepped right up.
“I have followed the industry since then,” said Tobias Loder, one of the pharmacists in Germany who has been involved with medical cannabis since 2014. “And of course, I was even more interested as legal cannabis started to come to Germany. I love people. And I want to help them. Integrating cannabis into my pharmacy seemed like just a natural thing for me to do. I could see from the 1990s that the medical impact of cannabis was impressive.”
As legal cannabis continues to open up and expand in the U.S., the idea of pharmacies like Rite Aid selling either recreational or medical cannabis products seems less and less far-fetched. Until that great day comes, however, having CBD in mainstream pharmacies is already a big step.