Medical marijuana and pharmacists: A prescription for confusion?

Categories: Marijuana

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What should pharmacists do about medical marijuana? Because it's a criminalized substance under federal law, pharmacists, like other health-care workers, aren't supposed to have anything to do with it. On the other hand, pharmacists want to meet the needs of their patients, many of whom have medical marijuana IDs. The schizophrenic relationship between pharmacists and pot is illustrated by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)'s new MMJ policy, which opposes marijuana legislation efforts, yet advocates for more pot research and suggests the DEA consider removing the drug from its Schedule I narcotics list.

Still, that leaves a lot of unanswered questions for pharmacists who are used to dealing with cut-and-dry drug doses and medically vetted lists of adverse reactions -- and not one-ounce baggies of AK-47. "In some ways, this is an instance where the legality has gotten ahead of how we know how to use it," said Cynthia Reilly, RPh, ASHP's director of the Practice Development Division in a recent Pharmacy Practice News article. "There are so many unknowns, but clinicians are being faced with patients who are using it."

Among those unknowns: Who should a pharmacist refer their patients to if they show up with a doctor's prescription for MMJ? What should hospital pharmacists do if a patient brings their own MMJ into the facility? And how can pharmacists ensure there aren't adverse reactions between medical marijuana and other pharmaceuticals they need to prescribe their patients?

Then again, some of these questions may be premature, since most medical marijuana patients don't try to score their meds through Walgreens. Most hospitals haven't run into problems, either. According to Pharmacy Practice News, Cindy O'Bryant, PharmD, BCOP, the oncology pharmacy specialist at Aurora's University of Colorado Cancer Center, can't remember any patients wanting to medicate with marijuana at the facility.

Even if they did, she added, the hospital's no-exceptions non-smoking policy would put a damper on it.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Local Products of Colorado sweeps last Caregivers' Cup (PHOTOS)"

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12 comments
Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

Fortunately (or unfortunately) most MMJ patients are well acquainted with ignorance and discrimination coming from our medical establishments, and society at large.  While it would be nice if we could openly talk to our medical providers about our MMJ use, we have been conditioned to hide it.  The good news is that MMJ is highly unlikely to have an adverse reaction with any of the pharma poison the medical establishment likes to push.

As far as MMJ use within hospital settings, I know for a fact that it is happening today in hospitals across the country.  I have smoked many times in hospitals with a paraplegic friend in a non-MMJ state.  Here in Colorado, I know of more than a few people who take edibles with them to the hospital. 

Thankfully, the tide is turning on the current state of ignorance and discrimination.  Hopefully soon we will see MMJ become truly integrated into the healthcare system rather than being "sneaked in" by patients forced to manage their own care when their doctor refuses to.

James
James

As a cancer survivor who has been treated at CU cancer center for the past four years, I can gratefully attest that the last two paragraphs are misinformed or misleading.  For six months, I openly medicated on hospital grounds prior to receiving chemotherapy.  This was done with the full knowledge of my care provider in a discrete manner that exposed no one to second hand smoke.  Of course this was a couple years ago, before MMJ became a prominent 'news item'.  Either the hospital has cruelly and unjustifiably 'clamped down' on this type of compassionate care or its spokesman is lying.

Oral medications were ineffective at controlling the severe nausea and vomiting I experienced and I was not about to risk my life to be politically correct.  Only by using cannabis was I able to successfully complete 11 of 12 scheduled cycles of therapy, an arduous experience that gave me a second chance at life.  I am glad I conferred with my nurses instead of the "oncology pharmacy specialist".

While I'm not entirely surprised, it pains me to read such ignorant remarks from supposed specialists.  The hospital's no smoking policy ought to have no relevance for patients who choose to consume edibles, tinctures, or to vaporize their medication.  But nearly twelve years after our law established the right for patients to use cannabis, this is the level of what we are dealing with at the state's leading oncology treatment and research center.  Pathetic.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

I know several pharmacists whom refer their patients to nearby MMCs if they ask about it.  Hopefully a hospital wouldn't deny a patient medicine because it was marijuana.  If I was in a hospital, I think edibles would be a good way to not receive negative attention.  If your doc has a problem with it, demand a new one.  

KaDrago,  I am very sorry to hear about your story.  Hopefully your wife is doing better.  We would love for you to submit your story to our patient magazine.    

KaDargo
KaDargo

My wife, a registered MMJ Patient, was recently in a long term care facility for about 6 months.  Because they were federally funded, they would not allow her to consume cannabis, but rather put her on Oxy and Vicodin.  She came home with an addiction that took a while to break.  Now she is back to cannabis.  Sad, but true.

Denver Real Estate Agent
Denver Real Estate Agent

huh "schizophrenic" is an unfortunate word choice there there... but at the same time with what other adjective do you describe a group who opposes cannabis legislation yet advocates for its de- or re-scheduling?

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welcome to the wonderful world of red herrings and moot points

Chris
Chris

Edible are an effective method of taking medical marijuana. I wonder what a hospital would think of a patient using a tinture, candy, or drink. 

Guest
Guest

Sounds like these pharmacists are trying to address a problem that doesn't exists.  Kind of like what the bureaucrats/legislators did when the world was "coming to an end" in 2009 and emergency laws and regulations were needed when they (strangely) weren't needed for the nine years prior.  I think the pharmacists just want a piece of the MMJ pie, too.

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Greedy fuckers. 

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