Walgreens sending medical marijuana smoke signals?

May 6, 2016

Walgreens’ posting of a sympathetic blog about the use of medical marijuana has created quite a buzz, with some online observers speculating the retail chain has its sight on that lucrative industry.

Walgreens’ posting of a seemingly sympathetic blog about the use of medical marijuana has created quite a buzz, with some online observers speculating the retail chain has its sight on that lucrative industry.

But a Walgreens spokesperson insists the chain has not taken a stance on the use of medical marijuana and cautions people against reading too much into the blog posting. Pharmacies cannot legally dispense medical marijuana.

The blog, entitled “What is Medical Marijuana? Clarifying Clinical Cannabis,” was written by Dahlia Sultan, who is a resident pharmacist at Walgreens and associated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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At various points in the blog, Sultan, a PharmD, suggests “marijuana provides pain relief in ways traditional medicines don’t” and “medical marijuana can improve appetite and relieve nausea in those who have cancer and may help relieve symptoms such as muscle stiffness in people who have multiple sclerosis.”

Not surprisingly, the blog has attracted the attention of medical marijuana advocates. Some believe that pressure from giant retailers such as Walgreens could eventually convince the federal government to reclassify marijuana so that it could be dispensed by pharmacies.

Despite what Walgreens is saying, some bloggers offered their own interpretations of the chain’s motives in posting the blog.

“D*** right Walgreens wants to be able to add MMJ to their pharmacy and rake in money off it,” one Tumblr blogger wrote. “Dispensaries are big business out here.”  

 

Another wrote: “Considering that drugstores stand to lose a great deal of money in sales of expensive prescription drugs that can be replaced by the medical use of cannabis, this is an amazingly honest article. In [the] future, I will favor Walgreens with my business whenever possible.”   

One healthcare professional wrote: “As a registered nurse who has been fighting for safe access and information for patients based on reality, rather than politics, this makes me happy, and is so nice to see coming from a mainstream pharmacy! I am really proud of you guys and a will continue to use Walgreens as my primary pharmacy.”

With an increasing number of states either approving the use of marijuana for medical or recreational use, the potential market is huge. For example, medical marijuana sales in California reached $2.7 billion in 2015, according to an ArcView Market Research report. Twenty-three states have already approved medical marijuana use and voters are expected to vote on the issue in many other states.

Jim Cohn, spokesperson for Walgreens, said that people shouldn’t read too much into the blog. “The content [of the blog] is strictly informative, and nowhere do we take any stance on the issue,” Cohn said. “It was developed to address some of the questions we’ve received from patients and customers through various  channels.”

And the blog does note that “research has indicated [medical marijuana]  may impair your lungs, memory, and judgment.”