Taking a Stand on CBD Oil: The Pros and Cons for Independent Pharmacies

Medical marijuana is a polarizing topic, especially among pharmacists. Still, even the most conservative traditional healthcare professionals are unable to deny the attraction of medical marijuana’s more controlled cousin, Cannabidiol (CBD). From the strict regulation on active ingredients (only .03% THC is permissible under the 2014 Farm Bill section 7606), to the staggering profit margins (40-50%, on average), CBD seems to be the miracle product that could financially offset the diminishing returns on more traditional pharmaceuticals.

Still, this cash cow doesn’t come without horns. The perception of the medication in addition to the regulations in many states are just some of the drawbacks of offering CBD in an independent pharmacy. In order to make a good choice about whether CBD is a wise investment for your business, here are the top pros and cons about this alternative source of revenue.

Benefits of CBD Oil for Independent Pharmacies

Effective Treatment

There are several peer-reviewed surveys that support the concept that CBD is just good medicine. In a comprehensive study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, substantial evidence was found that CBD was an effective treatment for chronic pain, as an antiemetic, and for treating multiple sclerosis spasticity. An additional study by The Permanente Journal in 2019 showed that the medication was well-tolerated in all but three of its 72 subjects (95.8% successful). Seventy-nine percent reported lowered anxiety with 66% having better sleep.


The Permanente Journal study also showed that CBD oil does not alter psychological states so that patients feel a “high.” The World Health Organization released a similar report stating that, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative on any abuse or dependence potential.

Direct Sale

Because CBD is purchased outright and then sold directly to customers, there is no PBM or third party manager. This means the profit goes back to you, and you have more control over sale price and markup.

Cash-Heavy Market

Most insurance companies don’t cover CBD oil as a medication yet. While this can seem like a deterrent at first, the low cost for the independent pharmacy means that it can be priced competitively with other pain management medications. This also means that customers purchase it directly, often with cash.

Return Client Base

The customers looking to buy CBD oil are often people with chronic illnesses, such as lupus, cancer, or even anxiety and depression. It has even been found to be safe in treating insomnia and PTSD—even for children. Once a client sees the powerful, positive impact of CBD, they are likely to use it indefinitely as a supplement or in place of higher-cost medications.

Power of Attraction

Small and independent pharmacies that have gotten a headstart on offering CBD have found they are able to attract customers already looking for a local supplier. Pharmacies selling CBD oil report seeing increased prescription transfers and higher volume of peripheral sales. Not only does the product drive higher volume of the CBD oil itself, but can impact sales across the board.

Drawbacks of CBD Oil for Independent Pharmacies

Little Research

Despite the early good news about CBD oil, there is relatively little formal research completed on the product. The surveys and trials previously mentioned have small sample sizes and provide limited information on the long-term effects of the medication. Further research is needed on topics like dosages and peripheral impacts on psychology and physiology.

State-Based Legality

At this time, CBD oil is only legal to cultivate under very specific circumstances and in certain states. The current list includes:

While each state has its own specific laws about how the oil is processed, the crops themselves must be grown under the strict observation of a state-approved agricultural research program. It is illegal for the DEA to prohibit the transportation or processing of the crops, meaning that it can be transported to any state for sale. But since many states don’t have specific permissions for its sale, it may be a potential landmine of legal action in the wrong area.

Hit-and-Miss Regulation

Third parties are legally able to purchase cannabis from state-regulated research crops, but process for preparing CBD oil is highly unmonitored. This means that unsuspecting pharmacies can spend thousands of dollars for CBD oils with little or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient of CBD oil) or far too much. One 2017 study found that 69% of online CBD products were mislabeled with 20% of them having THC levels so high as to cause psychological impairment.

Unknown Interactions

Of course, every medication needs to be carefully considered before adding it to a pharmaceutical mix. With CBD oil, exact interactions are unknown, especially since THC levels can’t always be 100% verified even within the stock of a particular brand. It can be a game of Russian Roulette to provide customers with a product that may do more damage than good.


CBD oil is possibly one of the most lucrative and effective new options for pain management, chronic healthcare support, and psychological stress relief. Still, it is a new player in an industry where traditional medications have decades of research and observed interactions to shore up their reputations. When considering whether CBD oil is a good fit for your independent pharmacy, make sure that you are sure the benefits outweigh the potential legal risks.