MEDICAL MARIJUANA | Pharmacists on front line of Pennsylvania's program – The Star Beacon

Pharmacists play a key role in managing and distributing an appropriate dosage of medical marijuana in its various forms across Pennsylvania’s 60 state-approved dispensaries.

Through Pennsylvania’s guidelines, patients do not receive marijuana as medicine the same way they would receive a muscle relaxer or antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.

While physicians certify their patients to receive medical marijuana for any of 23 acceptable medical conditions, card-holders then sit down with dispensary pharmacists to determine what might work best for their ailments.

Laura Mentch, of Danville, is one of two pharmacists at the new Nature’s Medicines facility in Selinsgrove, scheduled to open Thursday.

Mentch and her patients will talk through the symptoms present and what the patient wants to accomplish with medical marijuana.

Is it anxiety? Is it a sleep disturbance? Is it pain? Tourettes? Seizures?

“Anxiety is now a qualifying diagnosis,” she said. “We would talk through the symptoms that are associated with the diagnosis. I also talk to the patient about what dosage forms they are willing to try.”

After presenting their medical marijuana cards and photo IDs at the site’s entrance, customers fill out registration forms and work with consultants to log all of the symptoms they struggle with, as well as any prescriptions and medicines they take regularly.

Before a product in any form is recommended, the drug is cross-checked with a patient’s current prescriptions to avoid the potential for negative reactions, Mentch said.

‘Finding what’s right’

To Sarah Hassinger, her new Johnstown employer’s Beyond/Hello dispensary name is fitting, compared to her past stops as a pharmacist for retail chains.

Before the world of medical cannabis caught her attention a year ago, Hassinger said she worked in pharmacies for a nationally-known big-box store and a drug store chain – which often meant exchanging

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