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  • D. H. Reilly

Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission working on details for medical marijuana dispensaries in AL

There is still so much we don’t know about what the medical marijuana market here will be like once you can get an Alabama Marijuana Card. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission (AMCC) has only just begun their regular meetings to design the state’s program.

However, one prominent member of the AMCC has spoken his mind about one aspect of the nascent market to journalists recently, saying he thought medical marijuana dispensaries here should be based on pharmacies.

Pharmacist Sees Parallels Between Pharmacies and Dispensaries

Sam Blakemore, of Birmingham, is a Doctor of Pharmacy and the manager of the pharmacy at Children’s of Alabama. He was named to the AMCC by Governor Ivey back in July, and has since been tapped to serve as the head of the AMCC subcommittee on dispensaries.

Speaking to WSFA, Montgomery’s NBC affiliate, Blakemore said, “The dispensaries are not pharmacies. But they should, in my opinion, have characteristics that resemble a pharmacy.”

According to SB 46, the state’s medical marijuana law, the AMCC must establish training standards for dispensary employees and oversee dispensaries to ensure that only qualified employees are hired as dispensers.

As trained employees will be dispensing prescribed medicine to qualified patients, it’s easy to see how a pharmacy model might be appropriate to medical marijuana dispensaries.

“We’re going to have to be able to train certified dispensers to be able to pull the correct medicinal cannabis products that have been recommended by a physician,” Blakemore told WSFA. “Fill that order correctly, make sure it’s verified appropriately against the patient registry, and then ensure that the physicians have been checked out.”

Watching the Bottom Line: More Training Means More Costs

Of course hiring personnel is never cheap, but the more training they need, the more costly it gets. Some have criticized the high regulatory and licensing costs associated with SB 46, and have worried that dispensaries here will struggle to turn a profit, which would in turn limit consumer choice.

Blakemore’s response to that criticism when WSFA presented it was to hope that dispensary owners will worry less about profits and more about service.

“This isn’t something to get into too just blindly make money. You’re going to have to have a passion for helping people,” Blakemore told WSFA.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Nationwide Often Struggle to Turn Profits

Blakemore’s admonition to those worried about the cost of operating a dispensary isn’t likely to resonate with the businesspeople who will be crunching the numbers and contemplating an entry into the dispensary business.

Nationwide, medical marijuana dispensaries often struggle to turn a profit. At least some of that difficulty can be attributed to the high cost of dispensary operations, even before employment is considered.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have to abide by legal regulations, a minor inconvenience that street dealers need not concern themselves with. And that minor inconvenience can result in high costs for dispensaries and high prices for patients.

Although medical marijuana is now legal in 36 states, it is still on the DEA’s List of Controlled Substances. That means it’s illegal at the federal level, and that means lots of headaches and costs for dispensaries.

Most banks refuse to work with cannabis businesses, because of uncertainties about the legality of doing so federally. That means anyone interested in operating a dispensary must have all of their start-up cash in hand before they can even begin pursuing a license from their state. It also means cannabis companies must usually work with a small number of payment processors and banks that are willing to take on the risks of funding a venture that’s quasi-legal federally, but they’re only willing to take on those risks for an outsized share of the profits.

And dispensaries of course pass those costs on to patients, leading to high prices for medical marijuana just about everywhere in the country.

“I would say affordability is the number one barrier to access (nationally),” Debbie Churgai of Americans for Safe Access, a legalization advocacy group, told NBC News.

Training Necessary to Ensure Patient Safety and Quality of Medical Marijuana

While would-be dispensary owners may not like being told by an AMCC member that they shouldn’t care so much about profits, and while training employees may add to their costs and ours, the fact of the matter is having trained, professional dispensary employees is vital to the success of a medical marijuana market.

After all, no one would knowingly buy pharmaceuticals at a drug store with untrained pharmacy employees, no matter how good the prices were. Medicine is medicine, and its safety is only ensured when it is administered by trained professionals.

No Matter What Dispensaries end up Being Like, Medical Marijuana is on Its Way to Alabama

While we are still in the dark about so much in regards to the future of the medical marijuana market here, there is one thing we know for sure: Medical Marijuana is indeed on its way to Alabama.

And you don’t have to wait to start getting ready for its arrival. Reserve an evaluation today with one of our compassionate doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Alabama’s medical marijuana market is up and running.

You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, in the comfort of your own home, using your computer or smartphone for a telemedicine appointment. Not only will you find out what relief medical marijuana might offer you without leaving your couch, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!


Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at 833-781-5633, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

And don’t forget to check out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.

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