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Why this cannabis pharmacy is taking aim at the OCS

As Canada’s first compounding pharmacy specializing in cannabis, Ottawa’s Hybrid Pharm has a unique position in the industry. Rather than buying mail-order from licensed producers, clients buy in-person from the pharmacy. With its medical cannabis sales license with possession, they can deliver a storefront experience — something that CEO/founder Rahim Dhalla doesn’t think should be so rare.

Mind the gap

That’s why a May 18 CBC story featuring a woman looking for help with insomnia at an adult-use store resonated with him. Budtenders aren’t legally allowed to make medical recommendations, which is how many end up in Dhalla’s pharmacy — through referrals from law-abiding budtenders.

But he’s concerned about those who slip through the cracks.

After firing off some pointed tweets directed at the OCS and legislators, he set out to build a case to show why the system needs to change.

Collecting the data

Partnering with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Dhalla launched a survey for store managers and budtenders to share details about the medical queries they receive.

“Budtenders are literally the frontline of this entire industry,” he says on the phone from Ottawa. “And they’re getting inundated with cannabis patients or cannabis curious people that know nothing about it … How they’re [responding] is upon that company or upon that budtender.”

The solution

He hopes that by showing how often it happens, he can advocate for a new medical retail sales license. He says in addition to relieving budtenders, it would help those who don’t have email, credit cards, or face other barriers.

“As much as we’d like to say, ‘Yes, we’ve legalized it, there’s access everywhere,’ there still really isn’t,” he says. “You can’t just walk into a store and get answers. Their hands are tied.”

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