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Medical marijuana has arrived in Puerto Rico, giving new hope to thousands of people suffering from severe pain or illness. Walking into a dispensary is a novel experience to a lot of people, so we’ve put together this article so you know a little bit more about what to expect.

To ensure medical-grade cannabis products are reserved to those with a legitimate need, the government of Puerto Rico has set up a system of checks, balances and regulations that will protect the rights of medical patients while preventing profiteers from exploiting the system.

As sanctioned distributors of quality-controlled medical marijuana products, licensed dispensaries are a vital link in the legal supply chain.

What is a Dispensary?

Medical marijuana dispensaries are part pharmacy and part retail store. Like any other retail outlet, they offer a wide variety of cannabis-based healing products for sale, including oils, creams, pills, candies, chocolates, tinctures, flowers and other forms appropriate for oral consumption, topical application or inhalation through a vaporizer (smoking marijuana is not legal in Puerto Rico).

But even if they have a qualifying health disorder, medical patients cannot simply walk in off the street to buy these products. They must possess a medical marijuana ID (obtainable through the Department of Health’s Oficina de Sustancias Controladas y Cannabis Medicinal) plus a recommendation from a doctor who has examined them and determined medical marijuana would be useful for their condition. Only then will dispensary staff members be allowed to serve them and help them select appropriate products for purchase—and even then, patients will be restricted to a 30-day supply with each purchase.

Regulations like these are similar to what patients encounter in pharmacies, but with one major difference. While patients must have a legitimate and demonstrable need to obtain medical marijuana products, physicians cannot give them actual prescriptions for medical-grade cannabis.

Under U.S. federal law, it is illegal to prescribe marijuana products for health conditions, which is why pharmacies aren’t involved in the medical marijuana business. Doctors can provide letters of authorization for patients with a qualifying condition who they believe could benefit from using cannabis for pain relief or healing, but that is not the same as a prescription that restricts a patient’s purchase to a specific medication.

Dispensaries sell a wide variety of medical-grade marijuana preparations, and patients have some leeway about which products they choose to buy.

Ask the Experts

For first-time patients in particular, visiting a medical marijuana dispensary can be an overwhelming experience. Since patients don’t come in with a fixed prescription, they must depend on educated dispensary staff to help them evaluate their options and make sound choices.

Despite a lot of positive publicity, medical marijuana is still relatively new and unfamiliar to the general public. This adds to the responsibilities of dispensary employees, who must bring customers with medical needs up to speed on the value of cannabis medications while explaining the pros and cons of different products. They must also explain techniques for usage and answer any other questions their customers might have (and most are likely to have plenty).

If you come in with a symptom like chronic back pain, you could treat it with vaporized cannabis bud, edibles, tinctures, pills, topicals, concentrates and even beverages, each with their own unique formulations targeting different symptoms. A good staff will know the product selections well and be able to guide you through the best solution for your treatment.

Dispensaries aren’t selling to just anyone, so they don’t make profits through aggressive marketing techniques. Instead, they find success by offering strong customer service. A successful dispensary will make the process of purchasing medical marijuana as smooth, informative and effortless as possible.

Dispatching Sickness, Dispensing Wellness

Medical marijuana is a fresh arrival in Puerto Rico, as are the dispensaries that will offer an interface between physicians and this important innovation in healing and wellness. Dispensaries will play the role of facilitator, cooperating with the medical profession to introduce some amazing healthcare products to clients intrigued by the possibilities.

In Puerto Rico, dispensaries are helping usher in a new era of diverse, responsible, evidence-based medicine. Dispensaries have a crucial job to perform, and at Encanna this is a responsibility we take seriously and are glad to accept.