Cannabis: Clarity and confusion

Today's Perspective

Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of members of the 2015 APhA House of Delegates, the profession has made a start in sorting out the difficult issue of medical marijuana. 

This topic—detailed in the first of a three-part series on cannabis (pages 50–51)—produced one of the more lively House debates since the brand-name versus generic disputes some 40 years ago. At the end of the day, the delegates produced policy that is a first step and provides a foundation for future policy development, but that will nevertheless guide pharmacists as state after state adopts laws that are in direct conflict with federal law. 

The adopted policy is important for pharmacy because of the underlying principles on which it is based. The policy first maintains the profession’s commitment to evidence-based pharmacotherapy by insisting that research be conducted on the efficacy and safety of cannabis and its components. It then advocates for education of health professionals about that research. By advocating that pharmacists collect and document in patient profiles the use of medical cannabis and provide counseling, the policy reinforces our role as drug therapy experts on the health care team. The policy then closes with recognition that the pharmacist should be involved in providing cannabis for legitimate and legal purposes—but not when the intended use is recreational.

As Pharmacy Today Reporter Loren Bonner notes in this month’s article, the June and July installments of this series will cover the situation in two bellwether states: Connecticut, where pharmacists dispense medical cannabis, and Colorado, one of two states where use for recreational purposes has been legalized. As with the policies set by this year’s House, the roles of pharmacists in those states reflect our broader responsibilities as health professionals. That makes the specifics of particular interest. Those that work will likely be repeated elsewhere. And our ability to work with the ambiguities and confusion surrounding medical cannabis could demonstrate to all the profession’s growing stature.

Enjoy your May Today!