Before we address the question, “what is apothecary,” here’s a rhetorical question–have you ever heard of a little company called Walgreens? A glance at the Walgreens timeline tells us that Charles R. Walgreen began as a pharmacist at the beginning of the 20th century; scrolling down a couple of decades, one can’t help but notice a great wave of activity and expansion, including the “100th Store Opening in Chicago,” suspiciously aligned with a time in our history referred to as prohibition.
Without looking any further at that timeline, a casual tour through the United States today would finish the story by relating that Walgreens as a chain has done just fine. What would cause such a boom in Walgreen’s business during the most restrictive years against a drug called alcohol can be summed up with the word we are now ready to define: apothecary. Used before the term “pharmacist,” this word describes the ancient role of collecting, concocting and distributing medicines wherever there may be a need for them. Yes it’s true that during prohibition, Walgreens pharmacists were among very few legal sources of alcohol, and at least part of the ongoing success of Walgreens stores must trace back to the timing of what they offered, and when they offered it.
In any case, when it comes to cannabis, an apothecarist would be someone who collects, concocts, and distributes one of the most celebrated and misunderstood medicines in American culture, called marijuana, for the purposes of medical use. Knowing what we do now, one could argue that the occupation predates the first liberating medical legal precedent set with regard to the substance.
So might the people we thought of as “drug dealers” in the 1980s have been diagnosing us while “pushing” dime bags and joints right under the nose of Nancy Reagan’s “war on drugs”?
To earn the title of apothecarist, one would have had to be more interested in the therapeutic than the recreational aspects of the medicine.
But this brings up an excellent point–who knew back in the 1980s that a revolution of research and sick people becoming aware of their dire need of the effects of marijuana was just around the corner? The distinction between medical and recreational benefits has changed the entire playing field regarding marijuana law and consciousness, and those who say nay to both sides of that fence are increasingly alienated in the conversation.
Furthermore, if it took a medical consideration to legalize marijuana in the first place, it is fascinating to consider whether or not there might be, and if so who will become the Charles Walgreen of green-friendly apothecary? For better or worse we live in an age when profit and tax revenue can often but a big art of the legalization process. By no means was Mr. Walgreen a philanthropist, but he sure did find the right niche at the right time for his business. We’re already starting to see many entrepreneurs entering the budding cannabis industry. How long will it be before this can be done on a nationwide scale? Only time will tell. . .
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