Dispensaries v. Pharmacies: Why Are They Regulated So Differently?

In several court decisions, the California Supreme Court has determined that a doctor’s recommendation for the medical use of cannabis is, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent of a prescription. Since that is the case, that determination should have application to dispensaries.

Photo: Cannabis Museum, Ohio

Historically from the 1850s until 1942, cannabis-containing prescriptions and patent medicines were available in pharmacies. One needs to ask why dispensaries and pharmacies are not treated under the same regulations today.

Dispensaries ought to have a legal obligation to advise patients what is in a product in terms of potency. Currently there is the opportunity for much confusion because packagers, distributors, and dispensaries can just slap some often-meaningless name on a package like Sativa, Indica, Purple Diesel, Orange Kush, or the like. These labels do not tell the purchaser what is actually in the product or the effect of increasing the dose of THC or lowering the dose of CBD. Here in California not only do we require no medical professional supervision of a cannabis dispensary, such as from a pharmacist, but unlike many medicinal cannabis states we do not require any training for dispensary clerks, so-called budtenders.

How does your state regulate medical cannabis distribution? What works and what doesn’t?