ALEX PEARSON | Medicate OH —
Today, women account for a whopping 59 percent of new cannabis users. But on the professional side, the industry is still dominated by men. In this series, MedicateOH talks with women in the industry about their roles, experiences, and their outlook on the future of medical cannabis in Ohio.
This week, MedicateOH interviewed Dr. Lauren Delande, Director of Retail Operations at Klutch Cannabis and The Citizen by Klutch, about her journey from the retail pharmacy world to the cannabis industry.
From CVS to THC & CBD
Dr. Lauren Delande entered the world of medicine in high school as a pharmacy technician at CVS Pharmacy. A love of science, math, and a responsible outlook on jobs and careers led Lauren to pharmacy school. During her last year in school, she began to develop health concerns.
With acquired knowledge of available medications and side effects, she veered away from a number of conventional medicines. This opened up the pathway to a more holistic, and natural approach to healthcare. Having already invested so much into her education, Dr. Delande decided she wouldn’t walk away, and would instead use her experience to improve patient care.
After graduation, Lauren returned to CVS to step into the role she’d been preparing for since before high school ended. But things had changed. Maybe not in the pharmacy, but in her.
“There is absolutely a time and place for pharmaceuticals and medicine. We wouldn’t be where we’re at without advances in treatment that have helped people avoid disability and lower death rates. But, as a culture, we turn to it way too fast and for way too long. We’re just managing symptoms instead of healing people.”
Opening Her Mind to Cannabis
Lauren began opening her perspective toward cannabis. Though it similarly offers symptom management, it’s an incomparably less harmful alternative to what’s currently available. At this time, she was witnessing the opioid epidemic from behind the counter.
Ohio has been infamously acknowledged in national media for being the home base for opioid over-prescription and misuse. Its impact remains much like scar tissue. Cannabis advocates like Dr. Delande remain hopeful that emerging research on cannabis and patient advocacy for opioid recovery care will allow opioid use disorder to become a recognized condition in Ohio sooner rather than later as in other state programs.
As her time in the pharmacy continued, Lauren recognized the misalignment between what she was seeing and what she was feeling could no longer be denied.
“Patients would ask me about their medications and inside I would think to myself, ‘if you were my family, I would tell you not to take this,’ and it felt wrong. Sometimes I would encourage patients to explore other options and consult with their doctor, but as a pharmacist, there are not a lot of options you can offer.”
Joining the Cannabis Industry
Once the cannabis program came to Ohio, a friend contacted Lauren to dive deeper into medical marijuana. The two ended up landing a dispensary management position for the same company in 2019 right when the program started. Finally, alignment.
In this new role, Lauren left behind a predictable routine for the challenge of nurturing the seedling that was the Ohio cannabis program. She also earned a Neuro-Emotional Technique certification. This trauma-informed, stress-relieving technique helped her with panic attacks. Lauren continued exploring holistic options for herself and her clients.
Soon after, Dr. Delande left the dispensary group to partner with Dr. Rony Sinharoy to start MyMedicine LLC. Recognizing a lack of research and cost inhibitions, MyMedicine LLC sought to combine education and advocacy while improving access for patients with Ohio’s lowest-cost medical marijuana card application and renewal.
“There’s such a unique place for pharmacists in the cannabis industry. Pharmacists can bridge the gap between doctors and the industry with credible science and inside knowledge of how dispensaries operate. We began consulting not only patients but business groups as well.”
Connecting with Klutch Cannabis
The opportunity arose last year to help Klutch Cannabis with applications for their own dispensaries. Klutch has developed quite a name for itself in the last few years, having been recognized as a patient favorite.
Setting up applications for dispensaries is a complicated process that requires an entire team to plan and prepare. Between permits and permissions, rough draft after rough draft, finally the applications for Klutch’s dispensaries in Canton and Lorain were approved. The biggest challenge in the process? Finding a location that the state and local community will allow a dispensary to open up.
“When you’re starting this process, you have to start by asking, ‘where can we put a dispensary?’ There are many municipalities that simply will not,” explains Delande.
After the success of the applications, Klutch asked Lauren to come on full-time. Now, she is helping bring the two new dispensaries to life as Director of Retail Operations. The dispensaries, called The Citizen by Klutch, will be 100 percent Ohio-owned and operated.
Looking to the Future
In these dispensaries, Dr. Delande looks forward to encouraging patients to take control of their healthcare by actively participating in the selection process. The goal is to not instruct the patient but to guide them towards discovering wellness, Lauren says. Each dispensary will carry a variety of Klutch and Kiva Confections products, as well as premium products from other state-licensed cultivators and processors.
“We are here for the patients and are excited for the opportunity to do this. We want to hit it out of the park. We’re looking forward to bringing a patient-focused approach and combining it with product excellence.”