When we attach the term “medical” to cannabis dispensary, it requires a higher level of knowledge, training, medical/health orientation and professionalism on the part of the dispensary owners and their budtenders.
Unfortunately, the lack of adequate cannabis research and training results in some budtenders lacking a genuine understanding of cannabis culture, biology and pharmacology.
Terms such as toxicity, delivery system, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and other relevant ones are not in usage. In a recent recording session of the soon to be released Cannabinerd Podcast, I sat down with my co-host, Richard Park, to discuss good dispensary practices. Richard currently runs Chicago’s first, and highest rated medical cannabis dispensaries. He makes the valid argument about the average budtenders lack of genuine understanding regarding cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the products they carry.
In fact, it can be argued that many strains in the US are more often produced for the recreational market: containing high levels of THC whilst lacking a more wholesome cannabinoid and terpene profile. Product shelf life is another concern that should be duly noted. Cannabis is living medicine that can only retain its therapeutic and medicinal properties for so long before it begins to degrade.
Dispensaries must be cognizant of the packaging their product is contained in and ensure the product is moved off the shelf and into the hands of patients before the medicine begins to lose its potency and their natural cannabinoid/terpene ratios. Patients are just that: patients.
They are going at dispensaries seeking treatment and relief from a myriad of medical conditions ranging from neuropathic pain to cancer to PTSD and a host of other conditions in between. The way a dispensary approaches their interactions with a new patient is a defining characteristic of that dispensary. In our episode, we outline the several main aspects of good dispensary practices when approaching a new patient:
- Identify their Tolerance
- Identify their Treatment Goals
- Side Effects (munchies, drowsiness, euphoria)
- Consumption Methodology (smoke, vape, edibles, transdermal, etc…)
- Adjust the dosage with body weight
- Identification of potential interactions with other medications/supplements they use
- Match the strain to the medical indication
- Match the delivery system to the medical condition
- Match the dosage to age and body weight
It is the responsibility of dispensary staff to set the bar high for patient care in the same way that we place in our trust in the formal medical establishment. It is up to the budtenders to inform patients of the short term and long term side effects of cannabis (primarily the actions of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol creating the “high” users experience) and how that specific product may affect them in regards to their tolerance and the cannabinoid profile of the product.
Perhaps more importantly, it is up to the dispensary and their owners to ensure their staff is well trained and informed on patient care roles as well as the most accurate and current research surrounding cannabis and it’s role as a medicine. And thus we owe this medical cannabis movement, a patient-driven movement nonetheless, our best efforts and highest quality of care.
Perhaps a better way to ensure these standards are met is to create a formal, comprehensive and standardized handbook for dispensaries and their staff that covers the medical qualities of their different products, proper shelf life and storage, as well as good documentation and dispensary practices. Creating and requiring a review of such a handbook to any and all dispensaries has the potential to significantly increase the quality of service staff can provide across the country.
With the significant outpour of new cannabis science and research along with previously established good practices, together this industry can improve its quality of service to patients everywhere.