Joseph Friedman deals drugs. Oxycontin, valium, morphine, even cocaine are things that he can get his hands on for a price. The one thing he can’t sell, though, is marijuana. Friedman is a pharmacist in Illinois who is helping to lead the charge to change marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance (meaning it’s federally illegal to prescribe or dispense) to a Schedule II substance that he can legally sell over the counter.
Friedman is part of a growing interest by Big Pharma in the plant, including a push by lawmakers in Michigan to allow for “medical grade” cannabis to be sold in pharmacies, and he made his case Tuesday before the Illinois State board of Pharmacy.
Illinois is currently ironing out provisions on their state medical marijuana program this year, which likely will opens to patients with one (or more) of 35 qualifying conditions sometime in 2015. So far, the state Board of Pharmacy hasn’t been involved in the talks – mostly because they aren’t involved in medical cannabis.
But some pharmacists are seeing the dollar signs pass before their eyes, it seems. Now that money can be made, they want to corner the market and make it so they are the only ones who can dispense pot.
“It makes perfect sense,” he Friedman told the Chicago Tribune. “After all, pharmacists are the drug experts.”
But they aren’t the cannabis experts. In fact, they are seen as pretty much the opposite in the medical cannabis community – mostly because pharmacists and Big Pharma have either openly fought against medical cannabis legalization or sat by and done nothing to help sick patients in need.
And now they are saying they could have been doing it better all along. James O’Donnell, assistant professor of pharmacology at Rush Medical College, says pharmacists are really the ones who should be giving out cannabis since they are the experts on filling out prescirptions.
“We can do it better,” he said. “We’re used to dispensing controlled substances to protect the public.”
That’s because most of the drugs they push can kill the public. But keep in mind that they aren’t writing the recommendations, they’re merely stock boys with lab coats.
Thankfully, at least one lawmaker is calling them out on their bullshit. State Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored the state medical marijuana laws, said that most current medical marijuana patients know more about medical cannabis than any pharmacist.
“While pharmacists certainly are used to dispensing medication, they don’t have any particular expertise in this area,” said Lang, a Democrat from Skokie. “Perhaps people who’ve been in the business in other states have far greater expertise.”