How I Became A Cannabis Pharmacist & Entrepreneur

By Daniel Asarch

Growing up in the 1980s, I was a child of the D.A.R.E program.  Everyday I would be inundated with this is your brain on drugs commercials as well as other anti-cannabis propaganda.  The stoner stigma and  government scare tactics worked for numerous years, but I finally gave into trying cannabis for the first time in college.  After trying it, I didn’t see what the big fuss about cannabis was as it didn’t do much for me except give me the munchies. As the years went by I used cannabis sporadically for recreational purposes and yet still didn’t have much knowledge about the plant.  Even when I attended pharmacy school in the early 2000s, the only two things I learned was cannabis existed as marijuana and Marinol, a synthetic thc pharmaceutical.

Working as a pharmacist I had patients on Marinol to help stimulate their appetites as they were either burdened with HIV or a form of cancer.   All of my patients preferred cannabis over Marinol.  They complained that Marinol had unpleasant side effects and that it didn’t help much with appetite stimulation.  However, my patients were stuck between a rock and hard place as medical marijuana was allowed but at the same time it couldn’t be legally bought anywhere at the time.  Outside of the need for appetite stimulation, some of my HIV and cancer patients were also on opioids or opioid related medications to help control their chronic pain.

In my 17 years of being a pharmacist, one of the hardest things to watch is people becoming addicted to opioids to help manage their chronic pain.  I probably have dispensed thousands of pain pills to patients.  All of them had legitimate scripts, but I’m also sure there may have been a few scrupulous patients that may have slipped through.  Opioid addiction takes a toll on the   mind and body as well as the patient’s surrounding environment.  In recent years, opioid overdoses have been on the rise and devastating lives.

 

You may wonder what the point of my story is so far, well I am about to tell you.  I have pledged to do no harm as a pharmacist and help as many people as I can.  Growing up, like most people I was taught to think inside of the box and that most things are black and white not grey.   Given my life experiences of childhood, college, pharmacy school, and working with patients I can tell you bluntly that’s all a lie.  I started to think outside of the box when I began working as a compounding pharmacist.  Compounding pharmacy allows to work outside the confines of big Pharma and the FDA to some extent.  It is here that I learned that hormones and vitamin supplements do play a part in some of our body functions.  Not all illnesses, disorders, and dysfunctions need a big Pharma medication to fix them.

This is where the pursuit of my cannabis knowledge started.

Even though Cannabis has been around and used for over thousands and thousands of years, we actually have very minimal FDA research on this wonderful plant.  However, we do have peer to peer research and personal use benefits documented by a great world wide population.  Cannabis knowledge can be found all over whether it’s in books, the internet, and via speakers on the topic.  Is it all factual? The majority of the information out there is factual, but the rest is based on myths and reefer madness.  There are at least 2 books that I can recommend: Cannabis Pharmacy and The Cannabis Health Index.  After reading these 2 books, I felt to have a better understanding of how cannabis affects the body.  Also,  I learned about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which plays an important in our body’s homeostasis.  Unfortunately, the ECS is only lightly touched on in medical school, pharmacy school, and even nursing school.   Hopefully,  as time goes on the healthcare system will realize the potential of Cannabis as a true medicine.

Over the last 3 years,  I have tried to etch my path in the cannabis industry.  I started my journey out as an associate publisher for Sensi Magazine, a lifestyle magazine with a cannabis touch originally based out of Colorado.  I helped to establish the Las Vegas market.  During my time with Sensi, I had the opportunity to network with many leaders in the cannabis industry as well as watch the cannabis scene mature in Las Vegas.   After being immersed in the cannabis scene for quite a while I decided that it was my time to take my cannabis journey to the next level.

In 2018, the USDA passed the farm bill to allow for the further legalization of industrial hemp.  I saw this as opportunity to start my own business in cannabis under this new provision and see where the road took me.  In late 2019, I opened Happy Hemp Pharm.  Happy Hemp Pharm is a small boutique business than prides itself on handcrafted and quality products.

Unfortunately as you all know Covid hit 2020 and slowed all the events down to complete halt.  Luckily, it allowed more time for product development and placement.  However, the only place that didn’t shut down during the pandemic was social media.  You would think with legalization happening throughout the states and parts of the world it would be easy to navigate the social media waters, that is truly not the case. Since cannabis is still federally classified as a class 1 controlled substance Facebook and Instagram are still quite discriminating towards cannabis related posts.

As we are already almost a quarter way done with 2021, I plan to continue to steadily grow and adapt my business to the ever changing cannabis/hemp industry.

Stay tuned to these pages …


EDITOR’S NOTE: Daniel Asarch will be a featured speaker and panelist at the upcoming G4 Live Budtender Awards.