This June 4, 2014 file photo shows a Walgreens retail store in Boston. (Charles Krupa, AP file)

Did Walgreens just flip the script on a pharmacy’s medical marijuana stance?

Walgreens surprises some with sane medical marijuana talk

Even though medical marijuana is legal in 24 states and recreational cannabis initiatives are gaining traction throughout the U.S., weed is still a touchy topic for most in the medical profession.

Sure, some trusted doctors will talk openly about marijuana’s legitimacy as medicine — and many more are coming on board — but journalists’ interview requests to major hospitals and medical schools (even in Colorado) are still met with a nervous, “Uh, we can’t talk about that on the record.”

Which is why Walgreens’ latest Tumblr post is so remarkable.

Walgreens, the largest drug retailing chain in the U.S. with more than 8,000 stores in all 50 states, is now tackling the subject of medical marijuana. Right above a recipe for “all natural fruit roll-ups” on Walgreens’ Tumblr is the headline: “What is medical marijuana?” And its tone is surprisingly sane and straightforward, especially for one of the largest pharmacies in the world.

“The healing properties of marijuana are due to its high cannabidiol (CBD) content (the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that may be beneficial in treating pain, epileptic seizures and possibly psychoses),” the Walgreens blog post reads. “Marijuana also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a molecule that can stimulate appetite, decrease nausea, reduce pain and produce a psychoactive effect.”

The post, written by Dahlia Sultan — a resident at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Pharmacy — talks plainly about cannabis’ dangers: “Research has indicated it may impair your lungs, memory and judgment.” But it also addresses (via sourced footnotes linking to the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, the U.S. National Library of Medicine and top medical journals) the medical conditions marijuana has been proven to successfully treat.

“Research has also shown marijuana provides pain relief in ways traditional pain medicines don’t. Medical marijuana can improve appetite and relieve nausea in those who have cancer and it may help relieve symptoms such as muscle stiffness in people who have multiple sclerosis.”

If you read this site regularly, you know all of this to be true. We’ve written about many of these studies (and others), and we also covered the Journal of the American Medical Association’s 2015 analysis that showed cannabis as a legitimate treatment for some ailments — including severe pain, nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy and spasticity from multiple sclerosis — while its efficacy regarding most conditions is unproven in part because of research blockades.

But for America’s largest retailer of pharmaceuticals to speak this straightforwardly about cannabis certainly signals a sea change. The Walgreens blog encourages readers, “If you’d like more information about the use of medical marijuana, talk with your doctor.”

As cannabis financial analyst Alan Brochstein points out in New Cannabis Ventures, “I can’t recall any S&P 500 company ever sharing such a supportive view, especially one that is involved in the lives of so many people who count on it for advice on health and wellness.”

The last line of the Walgreens blog points out an interesting if obvious fact: “Disclaimer: Walgreens is not a licensed medical marijuana provider.” Perhaps the company recognizes that — as cannabis-derived prescription drugs continue their march toward possible FDA approval — that won’t always be the case?