By Pat Anson, PNN Editor
You may not be able to get your opioid prescription filled at a CVS pharmacy, but you can stock up on medical marijuana. The nation’s largest drug store chain has begun selling cannabis-based products in eight states, despite lingering concerns about their effectiveness and legal status.
The move was announced by cannabis retailer Curaleaf Holdings, which carries a line of cannabis lotions, tinctures, edibles and lozenges that CVS started carrying in its stores last week. The CBD products are being sold over-the-counter without a prescription.
(Update: Walgreens has also announced plans to sell CBD products in 1,500 of its stores.)
CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical compound in marijuana that does not produce euphoria but is believed to reduce symptoms of chronic pain and other health conditions.
“We have partnered with CBD product manufacturers that are complying with applicable laws and that meet CVS’s high standards for quality,” a CVS spokesman said in an email to MarketWatch.
CVS said that it was selling CBD products in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee. Curaleaf executives said CVS would eventually carry its products in 800 stores in ten states.
“We’re going to walk slowly, but this is something we think our customers will be looking for,” CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo told CNBC.
‘Treated Like Criminal’ at CVS
The move is somewhat puzzling for CVS, which was one of the first pharmacy chains to crackdown on opioid prescriptions due to concerns about addiction and overdose. In 2017, CVS began restricting initial opioid prescriptions to 7 days’ supply and aligned its polices with the CDC opioid guideline.
Pain sufferers now complain they’re treated like drug addicts by CVS pharmacists.
“I submit to monthly drug tests and do everything I am supposed to do and I am treated like a criminal at the doctor and CVS pharmacy. My two pills a day barely touches the pain, but I need to work,” one patient recently told us.
“Some pharmacies, such as CVS, have taken it upon themselves to deny my prescriptions that I have been having filled there for 15 years. They first took it upon themselves to adjust my dosage. I didn’t realize that pharmacist were allowed to change a prescription,” said another patient.
“Why does CVS, a drug store that sells NSAIDs without restriction, have control of how I treat my patient?” asked one practitioner.
Although most Americans now support the use of medical marijuana and it is legal in dozens of states, the safety, effectiveness and legality of CBD is still very much up in the air. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA, alongside heroin and LSD.
“Societies have jumped far, far ahead of science,” Dr. Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC News. “So it’s showing up in lotions and pretty much any form of product one can use. There’s a lot of different ways one could use CBD, but the ways we have studied CBD is much more limited.”
According to MarketWatch, Curaleaf only list its shares on the Canadian Securities Exchange because major exchanges in the U.S. and Canada will not list shares of marijuana companies due to their hazy legal status.