Earlier last week the state of Ohio had some historic legislation shot down that would have required that their medical marijuana program be regulated by the Ohio pharmacy board. The original plan was to give the pharmacists of the state the unique right to dispense cannabis to patients as budtenders, but at the last minute the decision was made that this unique setup would cause more problems than it would solve. That being said, Ohio is still planning on moving forward with medical marijuana legislation that is more inclusive of pharmacists than almost any other state. It appears that the biggest difference in what we’re seeing in Ohio is that republicans are trying to proactively take the reins on this issue before democrats try to pass legislation that is too relaxed on the matter. The pharmacist debate in Ohio is far from over though and has sparked a national conversation that might be worth having.
In many ways I think that this push to let pharmacists regulate the distribution of medicinal cannabis is completely logical and a progressive step towards ending prohibition. If we ever really expect medicinal cannabis to be treated with the same respect or attitudes as other western medicine, then I would think people would eventually want their cannabis medicine handled by doctors and pharmacists, like all the rest of our medicinal drugs. While this might seem like simple logic, the main problem is actually the fact that cannabis remains a schedule 1 drug in the eyes of the federal government. Pharmacies need to be certified by the DEA and most states don’t trust that the federal government won’t come in and meddle in state affairs, especially if we get a new president. At this point only Connecticut and Louisiana are trying to regulate medical marijuana through their pharmacy boards. That being said, Ohio is certainly trying to keep pharmacists involved in the process. While cultivation and processing are now under the state’s Commerce Department, they will require a pharmacist to be present at dispensaries.
Many pharmacists are timid to jeopardize their careers to get involved in medicinal cannabis. It is a similar situation as to why doctors aren’t prescribing the drug and can only recommend it for patients. Ohio believes that since pharmacies are the ones required to be certified by the DEA rather than individual pharmacists, and medicinal cannabis seems to be inevitable, that pharmacists need not worry about federal intervention. Of course that might sound great in a perfect world, but many pharmacists are skeptical to put their trust in a system they’ve seen turn on so many people in the last few years.