Connecticut Pharmacists Prepare For Medical Marijuana

CONNECTICUT:  East Lyme pharmacist Laurie Zrenda sees the state’s medical marijuana program as a possible way to take her career in a promising direction.

“I’ve been a retail pharmacist for 26 years and it gets a little old after a while,” she said. “The chain stores have taken over.”

With little opportunity to work for an independent pharmacy, or own one herself, she is one of 21 people applying for a state license to run a medical marijuana dispensary.

“This is the chance to live the dream and own my own business,” she said, “and it will be good for people, too, I think.”

It would be more than a new career opportunity for Zrenda. She would become one of the state’s medical pioneers, part of a network of doctors and pharmacists devising a protocol for working with a drug for which there is no federal approval.

State law requires that every dispensary be run by a state-certified pharmacist. The state expects to award a license to anywhere from three to five applicants in early 2014.

Without FDA approval for marijuana, pharmacists will have to rely on themselves to some extent, said John Gadea, director of drug control for the state Department of Consumer Protection.

“It’s critical to have a person in that position to gather the data that’s lacking and do something with it,” said Gadea, who is also a pharmacist. “Once you start getting and collecting that data, they’re getting a more medical side to it. Those studies aren’t there, so there’s a void, and the pharmacists feel that they can help fill it.”

“There’s very little federal oversight; in fact, there’s practically none,” said Gadea. “Oversight then falls to the state.”

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