Utah in the Weeds Episode #38 – Josh Fitzgerald is a Pharmacist at Deseret Wellness

What to Expect in this Episode

In this podcast, Tim and Chris speak with Josh Fitzgerald, head cannabis pharmacist at Deseret Wellness in Provo. This particular episode was actually recorded at Deseret Wellness. As one of the first dispensaries to open in Utah, Deseret Wellness has already made a name for itself.

The podcast opens with a brief explanation of how Fitzgerald got started as a cannabis pharmacist. [01:56] He began his career working as a department store pharmacy tech before getting his degree from Midwestern University. He returned to that pharmacy after graduation in 2001, becoming the staff pharmacist.

Josh explains how he was really turned off by the opioid crisis of the early 2000s. [04:05] He wished there were some other way to alleviate pain without pushing pills. But what finally made him decide to investigate Medical Cannabis was his interactions with a young epilepsy patient. Fitzgerald realized he might be able to reduce her seizures with Medical Cannabis.

To make a long story short, he became a cannabis pharmacist and applied for the position at Deseret Wellness. Now he is excited to tell people all about Medical Marijuana, state-issued cards, dispensaries, and so forth.

Throughout the podcast, the guys talk about a range of things. They spent quite a bit of time talking about pricing and supply [14:52], with the general consensus being that both will level out in the near future. As more dispensaries open and growers reach capacity, stock should be more consistent. Prices should stabilize as well.

The guys also talked about how cannabis pharmacists do more than just dispense cannabis. [34:46] They work with patients to help them get the most out of their prescriptions. Fitzgerald mentioned that anyone with a Medical Cannabis Card can stop by Deseret Wellness to get advice, answers to their questions, and cannabis products. Orders can be placed on their website, too.

Resources in This Episode

Podcast Transcript

Chris: Well let’s get going here, Tim. I mean, we sound great, the microphones are hot, we’re ready to go. We’re live at Deseret Wellness in Provo, Utah. This is our second time recording here-

Tim: Yeah, that’s right. Utah in the Weeds, episode 38?

Chris: 38, Utahmarijuana.org is where you can go get all the transcripts, you can listen to the podcast right there.

Tim: Yes and we are going to start doing a full transcript of the podcast, which I think will be… I mean, it’ll be a little different, but you’ll be able to find them there and I think you’ll be able to find them there within about three or four days of when they release.

Chris: Okay.

Tim: Oh iTunes, which is kind of cool. If you want to read the podcast for some reason, you don’t want weed in your ear or on the speaker.

Chris: There you go, Utahmarijuana.org. And we are here today with Josh Fitzgerald, he is the head pharmacist here at Deseret Wellness. How long have you been at Deseret Wellness?

Josh: Since we opened up, I came on with them mid July before we opened up.

Tim: And when did you open, again?

Josh: What was it? Hard to think back.

Tim: But it was in August-

Josh: August 31st, last day of August.

Tim: And it was kind of a crazy day, I remember the stories.

Josh: Yeah. Have you guys heard the stories about how we opened? The Friday before we opened, the state changes all our EVS protocols and we’re scrambling, I got an email from the state and like, “Oh this is the new change.” And this is Friday night and I’m like, “Oh my gosh.”

Tim: We got some phone calls because we got a lot of patients who wanted to come down, wanted to be a part of the opening. The way I heard it was they were enforcing rules that already had existed but were not necessarily being followed to the letter and implemented perfectly around town. But that’s awesome, pharmacist in charge is your actual-

Josh: That’s my title, yeah.

Chris: Were you a pharmacist at a regular pharmacy before you came here?

Josh: Yeah, So, a little bit of my background, I started working in a pharmacy in ’96, fresh off an LDS mission, and my best friend’s older brother was in pharmacy school at the time and he’s like, “You need to do this, man, it’s cool.” So I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” So I went down to the Target in Fort Union, Cottonwood Heights now, and they just barely opened up, like a few weeks, and I walk in there and I said, “Hey, you guys looking for a pharmacy technician?” And the manager was like, “Sure.” And so they hired me right on the spot and I started working like two days later.

I worked with Target from ’96 to ’98, I was with them as a technician, went to pharmacy school and stayed on with them while I was in pharmacy school down in Phoenix. Graduated in 2001 from Midwestern, came right back to that same Target in 2001 and was staff pharmacist.

Tim: Oh, wow. As a pharmacist.

Josh: Yeah, they wanted me back there quickly so I was like, “Sure, I’ll go back.” The manager just left then and so there was some shuffling with the management there. So I started there as a pharmacist and then, what was it, 2005… I lived in South Jordan, Riverton, South Jordan area, and the Target out there in the district opened up in 2005, well late 2005, it opened 2006, but as soon as that happened I jumped on it, I was like, “Hey, I want to be a part of that.” So I was there from 2006 to this last July.

Chris: And so now you’re dealing with cannabis, I mean here you’re at a regular pharmacy dealing with regular pain pills and then you’re coming here dealing with a little more natural… I mean, was that a hard shift for you?

Josh: Oh definitely, honestly it was a huge learning curve because, one, I’m not a card holder, just to put that out there for everybody, don’t use the stuff.

Chris: Have you ever used cannabis?

Josh: No, never.

Chris: This is… I mean, we got to get into that.

Josh: Yeah, we’ll get into that. Yeah. I always bring this up because it’s fun to talk about, I’m not a user, I shouldn’t say user, a partaker of it, a patient.

Chris: I say the same thing.

Tim: You know what though, there is no wrong way to talk about it. In my mind. Weed, marijuana, cannabis, you call it whatever you want here. Call use, smoke, vape, consume, it doesn’t-

Chris: A lot of it is just lingo that we use.

Josh: Here in a medical setting we kind of keep it a little bit more on the professional side-

Chris: You have to, yes.

Josh: But in your podcast, yeah.

Tim: Okay, but you went through the whole opioid epidemic in the late ’90s through the early 2000s.

Josh: 2000s, yep. And that’s-

Tim: Like, you were in the heart of it.

Josh: I hated it, I hated every minute of it, yeah. To see these pill mills popping up in downtown Salt Lake and out in West Jordan. We’d see the patients come in and we’d see the doctors that came writing the same thing over and over again. I hated it and there was nothing I could do about it. I mean, it was a legit prescription, but it’s coming from a pill mill. And luckily over the years, there’s been some changes to that kind of stuff and there’s been some law changes that have been implemented to curb some of that stuff. It still exists though, unfortunately. And I hated being a part of it, that was part of the decision that made me want to leave that industry and come over there.

Tim: So what made you want to even investigate cannabis, marijuana, though? You know what I mean? What made you even be open to this?

Josh: Working at the Target that I was at for so many years, there was a family that has a home in Grand Junction and they have a daughter that’s had epilepsy her entire life and they got this summer home down there, and they would go down there and they started using some CBC and THC combinations to help with the epilepsy. And it got me thinking a lot over the years, I would see them take this drive down there multiple times a month, and to see the change in this little kid that was having seizures multiple times a day, knocking it down to maybe a few a week, that got me thinking about what this industry entails and how we’ve kind of lost it.

After that it’s kind of just me researching it and when I saw the position open up here at Deseret Wellness I was like, “Should I apply? I’m interested, but should I apply?” And leaving that industry that I’d been in for, gosh almost 25 years, it was really hard. But the more I looked into it and the more I saw how they do things here at Deseret Wellness, I was really opened to the idea. but to see… And that little girl that I dealt with before, she wasn’t the only one, there were other people too. And I saw people get into that downward spiral of addiction, I’ve had family members that have been in that spiral and to not have this option that they could have turned to was really kind of a motivating thought for me to make this change.

Tim: Yeah. That’s the gap between knowledge and not knowledge is that light bulb moment where you realize, “Wait, I don’t know a lot about this.”

Josh: Yeah.

Tim: Right?

Josh: But you have to explore it.

Tim: But you see something-

Chris: Are you still in touch with that family?

Josh: Not as much as I was, I haven’t seen them since I left, really.

Tim: So now that you’re here, did you look at other pharmacies to work for when you were looking into this or just this one?

Josh: Just this one in the beginning because that was all that was opening up at the time, I had feelers out to see what was going on, at that point it was just Dragonfly so there was other people. And Wholesome was kind of in the beginning and Mindy had already been established as a pharmacist up there so that wasn’t a possibility for me. But, yeah, I looked around a little bit.

Tim: You say it like it’s just normal. Like Dragonfly and then Mindy up at Wholesome.

Josh: Oh yeah.

Tim: I mean, this is really a small community-

Josh: It is a tight group of people, it is.

Tim: There’s only how many pharmacies open now, I think there’s six or seven.

Josh: I think there’s seven, yeah.

Tim: Of the 14 that will open-

Josh: Hopefully open, yeah.

Tim: And really, everybody… Do the pharmacists essentially all know each other?

Josh: We do, we have a little group, the Utah… I forget the exact name of it, but we’re an association of cannabis pharmacists. We talk monthly, usually, and go over things and voice our opinion when we need to voice it to the state as a group. Yeah, we’re very tight knit in a lot of ways, we don’t talk all the time but if I have a problem I’m going to reach out to Kevin up at Dragonfly and see what’s going on there. When Brian was over at Curaleaf I could reach out to him too. So, yeah, we know each other. It’s fun.

Chris: Do you live in this area?

Josh: No, I live in Riverton, so I commute down here every day.

Chris: Because I was just wondering how it was down here in Provo, like if you lived here and then your neighbors found out you were dealing with cannabis, I was just curious what it’s like.

Josh: It’s interesting. When I got this job, in the beginning, I didn’t come out and say I got this new job, that I’m working in the cannabis industry because I didn’t really know how to take it in the beginning. But now I’m totally open about it and love to talk about it. But it’s interesting to see the people come out of the woodwork that you didn’t know that were maybe using it or going to Colorado or Nevada to get it, they’ll be — “Hey, Josh, I’ve been getting it from Colorado for the last five years.”

Tim: Right like, “I need to come see you down here.”

Josh: Yeah, so that opens up some doors and I can talk to them about it. Like I told you, I’m LDS, I’m kind of like the token LDS guy around here, and I see a lot of LDS patients in here, it isn’t a stigma as much as we think it is in a lot of ways, in this culture and community. It’s cool to see people come out and say, “Hey, yeah, I use this stuff and it’s helped me.”

Tim: Do you see a lot of patients here that are from this area? Or do you see a lot of patients that are traveling because they don’t want to come to their local cannabis pharmacy?

Josh: No, people pretty much go where the closest pharmacy is, it’s a location based thing. But we have people come from, since we’re the furthest one south, we have people come from Saint George, we have people come from the Blanding area, we have people come from Moab-

Chris: No kidding.

Josh: You know, we’re straight out of the mouth of the canyon here, out of Spanish Fork Canyon, so we get a lot of the Southern Utah people. But to say, like the majority of our patients are based here in Provo and Orem and Spanish Fork.

Chris: Speaking of that actually, I have a question on that topic, since you have people driving here so far. It’s been a while since I’ve been to your website but do you guys keep it up to date pretty much? With your product.

Josh: Oh, yeah. I’m glad you asked that because we just changed to an online format that gives a little bit more of our menu options and you can actually make online orders now. That’s been huge over the last week, it’s pretty new to us.

Chris: And you do the curbside pickup, I saw out there. You take the Hypur app here yet?

Josh: We do, yep, Hypur and everything, yeah.

Chris: Okay.

Tim: Are people using cash primarily or are they switching over to Hypur?

Josh: We would like them to switch over to Hypur but it’s primarily cash and I think it’s going to be that way for a little while.

Tim: Is it because people are still afraid of the system knowing that they’re-

Chris: Being tracked.

Josh: Yeah, people talk about that, being tracked, all the time.

Tim: People do not want to be tracked with cannabis.

Josh: Yeah. I try to alleviate those concerns, you know, Hypur doesn’t really you in any way. Yes, you’re a user on that platform but…

Chris: You’re being tracked in EVS, every purchase you make right there.

Josh: That’s what I was going to say, yeah. And to kind of go back to what we were talking… Off the podcast with the whole controlled substance database, you guys talked about last week-

Tim: Well, with Desiree.

Josh: With Desiree, yeah.

Tim: And they put it in this little article I read on the news and they kind of hid it at the bottom of the article, right? Like, “Oh, by the way, we’re going to put you all on another state run database.”

Josh: Yeah. There’s good and bad to the controlled substance database but everybody is being tracked, so if anybody has any concerns, you are being tracked, but it’s in a good way. The state’s here to help us out.

Chris: Our phones in our pockets are tracking you.

Tim: The phone knows more about you than you do.

Josh: Yeah, exactly.

Chris: So, are you thinking about ever using cannabis? Have you ever thought about it? Like, even the lotion or anything?

Josh: So, I went to my primary care physician because I like to run a lot and I’ve had some issues with my heel over the last couple months and I made an appointment with him and I’m like, “Hey, I want to maybe try cannabis.” I said, “This is my new job.” And we’ve known each other for years now, and he was hesitant about giving me that letter so…

Tim: Is he a QMP?

Josh: No, he’s not, so he was going to give me a letter and I was going to try and go to a QMP. But yeah, I definitely want to at least try some of the stuff, I don’t have a true qualifying condition in the extent of other people do. But yeah, I have chronic pain in my heel, which I think is a qualifying condition, right?

Chris: I was going to say, isn’t pain a qualifying condition?

Tim: As somebody who can tell you that it is a qualifying condition, yes that’s a qualifying condition.

Josh: Yeah. So, I’m-

Tim: Especially for topicals-

Josh: That’s what I really wanted to get, I want to try some edibles and I want to try some topical to help with this pain that I can sleep at night. Hopefully, I can get an appointment with somebody here in a little bit. I want to give it a try, for sure.

Tim: It’s interesting, do you feel like you’ve come to that because you’re involved in it? I mean, when we were all in school they said, “Don’t hang out with those kids because the more you hang out with those kids the more likely you are to get into trouble and use…”

Chris: And look what happened, you started hanging out with them.

Tim: So is this the truth or is this just the knowledge?

Josh: It’s the knowledge, it’s the truth in the sense that it is the knowledge, yes. I’ll tell you this story real quick, I’ve got a good friend that, she’s dealing with a lot of shoulder pain right now, she found out she had a herniated disk in her neck that was causing the shoulder pain. And she came in here because she didn’t want to take opioids, and she wouldn’t have come in here unless she would have known that I was here. So in the sense that the association with me and her gave her that entry to get in here. Same goes with my situation, the knowledge that I have is that entry to get into here and pursue this kind of thought and treatment method.

Tim: So this is exactly the point that I think needs to be made, is that it’s not the association with the wrong crowd.

Josh: No.

Tim: But it is the association with the cannabis crowd.

Josh: Yep.

Tim: It’s the association with the correct cannabis crowd that makes the difference.

Josh: Yep. And it’s just the sharing of knowledge and sharing of experiences too, with it, and being comfortable with it. There’s definitely the stigma that’s out there and we have to change that as a community and it takes us talking about it and takes us sharing it and yes, it’s association but it’s a good association, like you said.

Chris: Speaking of the stigma, have you noticed since March, the first pharmacy opened up in Salt Lake, Dragonfly, to now, have you seen a little bit of that stigma kind of disappear a little bit?

Josh: For sure, yeah.

Chris: Over the last year even, here in Utah.

Josh: Oh, yeah. You know, the more people see it the more people are comfortable with it and the more we can explain to them that it’s a safe, effective method of treatment, it’s going to keep growing. And we can see that in the card numbers that are coming through, I mean, we started off what… What was it back in August when we opened? There was maybe like, 10 000, 19 000? I don’t remember, what’s it up to now?

Tim: It’s well over 20 000 legal users now, and I think the card numbers-

Josh: The card numbers are in the 30 000, there was one yesterday that was in the 32 000, so.

Tim: Yeah. So there are so many legal cannabis users. Remember when we get to 100 000, that’s three percent of the state’s population, adult population.

Josh: I can’t wait.

Chris: Is that kind of when…

Josh: We’re gonna start voting for legal then, right?

Tim: Yeah, that’s what the lobbyists and that’s what the industry looks at, they look at that three percent number. It’s kind of the magic number before you start to transition to that other discussion.

Josh: Yeah.

Tim: Have you seen people… This is a good question for Josh, because on my end, I’m not for adult use yet. But have you seen patients who have had some negative effect?

Josh: Negative effect, no, there’s really no negative effect that I’ve seen so far. It doesn’t work for some people, I can say that, and some people are discouraged when that happens but it’s not a negative effect. The majority of our patients see a positive effect from it, they see a benefit from it.

Tim: So not a lot of negative effects?

Josh: No.

Tim: That’s good.

Chris: Except draining your bank account, right.

Josh: Exactly, yeah.

Tim: Right, especially in prices here. So, talk a little bit about prices, is there anything on the horizon that will bring prices down?

Josh: Competition, the more pharmacies we can get open, I think the more competition we’re going to have. And then the more growers we can get producing quality product and more of it, well it’s going to drive the demand for it… Well, the supply will go up and that way we can have that… I don’t know, it’ll even the market out, is what I want to say.

Chris: But if there’s only 14 pharmacies then how can you really have competition?

Tim: Right. There was somebody who, the other day, told me they drove through a city in Colorado, 120 pharmacies-

Chris: The green mile, man, in Colorado. 22 dispensaries in a mile-

Josh: At some point, the state’s going to have to evaluate the amount of pharmacies we have and I think that’s going to be the deciding factor on what’s going to level the market out.

Chris: Have we ever talked about why they only allowed 14 pharmacies in Utah? Do we know why?

Tim: Originally it was the central fill, remember we were-

Chris: Well I remember that.

Tim: You were going to go to the central fill and then-

Chris: And that was the blister packs.

Tim: That was going to be the blister packs and then the central fill pharmacy would distribute it out to the health departments and then they would distribute it out to the patients. But there was some problem with the health department employees doing something federally illegal, dispersing a federally illegal product and not forcing them. So, again, compromised with a small number of retail pharmacies.

Chris: I’m just wondering where they got 14 and not 20.

Josh: I’ve never heard that.

Tim: Deseret Wellness has a pharmacy in Park City that going to open, when do you think that pharmacy will open?

Josh: We’re shooting for early February, late January, sometime in that timeframe.

Tim: Early February, late January, and is home delivery going to be a part of the Deseret Wellness

Josh: It’s going to be our core, I think, up in Park City for sure. Just the way that the demographic is up there with the seasonal people there too, I think it’s going to be very core to how we dispense up there. Down here in Provo we’re working on getting that done, as soon as we get the state authorization we’re ready to go with home delivery here and hopefully that comes sooner than later because we’ve got a lot of patients that struggle to get here. That’s why we have the curbside for the moment and we’ll keep doing that, but curbside has helped out a lot of people that have a hard time getting into the building. So those types of one-off delivery methods or one-off purchasing methods are key to this industry, I think.

Chris: Do you have a drive-through here?

Josh: We don’t, no. We’re not set up for that. I’d love to have one but no.

Chris: Yeah, I was going to say, I didn’t think I saw one.

Tim: No, but there’s how many curbside spots out front?

Josh: There’s three, we started with one and just this last week we had to add a third and we’re probably going to have to add a fourth here pretty soon.

Tim: Oh really? That’s cool though.

Josh: It’s really nice, yeah.

Tim: So talk to us about flower too, because you’re the guy who knows how much flower is in this location, and it still comes up as an issue, I just talked to a patient this morning who was like, “Oh, there’s no indica here, where can I find some indica?”

Josh: Yep, all we’ve got right now is Sundae Driver, yeah. Flower is tough here in Utah, we’re having shortages and a lot of it is held up with the state and the second round of processing that just went through. A lot of it is just our growers growing quality flower that they can put on the market too. So there’s some things that could change and be a little bit better here in the state, for sure, to get us to that point.

Tim: If you could pick a couple of those things which would it be? Because I hear you say a couple of things, one, there’s not enough growers that are producing an adequate amount of flower. Is there’s only three? There’s Tryke, Zion and there was Dragonfly.

Josh: Wholesome’s got some going on now. I know that Beehive’s affiliated with some growers too. So yeah, there’s flower out there and I’ve talked to some of the people and you can grow flower and that’s great. If it’s not quality flower then it just gets shipped to processing for edibles and other things. So we need to have quality flower that’s grown that’s quality to smoke and to use as medicine. If it’s not that then it’s not worth bringing to market and I think that’s where some of it’s getting lost right now, yes there’s flower being grown but a lot of it’s just getting pushed to processing.

Chris: Even a lot of the stuff that you can vape is kind of garbage, though, that’s coming out of the State of Utah. I’m actually surprised that it’s coming out.

Josh: Yeah, talking to a lot of our patients, there’s some things that could change.

Chris: I mean, I don’t want to sit and talk bad, I just want to see change. I want to see us get better quality because we deserve it.

Josh: And you know, talking to Jeremy, our market president here, he’s got a good relationship with Tryke and with Zion, pretty much everybody here in Utah. And they’re making strives to get to that point, they want to produce as much as they can, they want to produce quality product and they’re getting to that point. We’ll be there soon, I would imagine by mid next year we’ll have plenty of flower to go around.

Chris: I have a question on that, popped in my head here and you might not be the person to ask, we should have asked Shawn this when we were recording with him. But are they limited to how much they can grow in a space or can they grow as much as they was as long as they have a license.

Tim: No, they can grow as much as they want in the space but they’re limited to how many square feet they can grow in.

Josh: And to that point, Zion opened up a ton of extra grow space. Elk Ridge over here, just south of us, and they’ve got a grow going up in northern Utah too. They’re making those strides to get to that point so we’re grateful that they’re investing, that’s a lot of money that these growers are investing into our market.

Tim: Yeah, it’s a big investment. And the greenhouses, just additionally to this point, is you want to grow cannabis quickly then you need an existing greenhouse to take over. So you got to take over somebody’s poinsettia operation and they’ve got to know that they’re going to get paid and they’ve got to make some modifications for security because you can’t just grow a bunch of weed in the middle of Ogden and expect it not to get stolen. I mean, even the hemp gets stolen, we talked to Mike Rodriguez.

Josh: I’ve heard some stories about some of this other Utah stuff that’s happened on there. They’re making progress, like I said before, mid next year I think we’re going to see a levelization of the flower market and start to see some normalization of what we can have in stock and making sure we have the same things in stock.

That’s what we’re kind of worried about here and what we try to strive for is having the same things in stock every month. So when someone can come in and they’ve been using Gorilla Glue from Tryke and it’s working well for them, heck they come in the next month and we don’t have it for them and I feel horrible. They want this medicine and in a traditional marketplace, a traditional pharmacy, that’s unheard of. So to me, that hurts me as a pharmacist, it just makes me feel horrible. These people want this medicine, I can’t give them their Khalifa Kush vape cart that they’ve been using for the last month because we’re out of it.

Tryke’s trying as hard they can to get it to market, we’ll have some soon but, you know, it’s such a young market here in Utah that we can’t expect too much of what they’re doing at the same time, so we got to have some patience on our end too.

Chris: Since this will be going up Friday, can you give any tips on when any stuff’s coming in? Or is that not something you’re allowed to talk about?

Josh: I’m not allowed to talk about it, but I will say this, keep an eye on our website.

Chris: Okay.

Tim: And you keep that well up to date.

Josh: Any pharmacy here in Utah, look at their website before you come in. That way you’re not going to be surprised when you get here. Everybody keeps their websites completely up to date and that’s just the best way to get the information before you come.

Tim: You mentioned Gorilla Glue and these names, as a pharmacist do you feel like these are more fun names for drugs?

Josh: I tell this story all the time, as a pharmacist, one of our first days here, I’m selling a cart to this little old lady that she’s been vaping for a few years from Colorado and I’m selling her PPD, and she’s like, “PPD, I’ve never heard of PPD.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, yeah.” I didn’t want to continue with it any further and she kept bugging me, “Well, what is PPD?” And I’m like, “Okay, it’s Purple Panty Dropper.” And like everybody in the pharmacy just busts up laughing. Yes, the names are pretty funny and crazy, yes we could probably do better at naming them, especially in the medicinal market I think it’s a little bit weird. We’ve had conversations with different pharmacists and it’s just the market.

Tim: It’s where the market came from, I guess.

Josh: Exactly, yeah. Since the marijuana tax act of 1937, we lost that ability to have cannabis, marijuana in our culture and luckily we had these hippies in California that were growing it for us and keeping it alive. If we didn’t have them we wouldn’t have what we have today and unfortunately, they named it, not unfortunately, I shouldn’t say that, but to some extent they named it some crazy things and that was just because of their culture and we have to accept that that was part of the culture. Can we change the culture today? I think so, I think we can make it a little bit more medicinally friendly.

Chris: But you need to remember your roots and I think that’s the problem is too many people in the industry now are trying to forget it. Trying to make it too glamour… You know, “Oh let’s make it look all fancy.” While there’s still people in prison for paving the way at this.

Josh: We owe them a debt of gratitude for sure, we wouldn’t have what we have now if it weren’t for them. The growers that were coming out of California and the Pacific North West and Florida and even South America. We have these plants, we have these hybrids that they cultivated for us for years and we should be grateful for them, yes. But I-

Chris: I know what you mean.

Josh: Yeah, and that’s going to be a back and forth for years.

Tim: Those are the people that are taking themselves so seriously, you know, “You got to rename everything and you got to…” Yes, could we do a little bit better and does the little old lady probably prefer a name that’s not Purple Panty Dropper? Maybe, but maybe she doesn’t take herself serious enough-

Josh: She’s probably telling all of her friends, “Hey guys…” At the same time, like I said before, she laughed and it was a fun time in the pharmacy. So there’s two sides to it, for sure.

Chris: Should we hit up some of these questions? Because there’s quite a few on this paper here, Tim.

Tim: I know, there is, we got a few that we asked already about, the Park City, you know.

Josh: We’re so excited about Park City, it’s going to be so neat to have that up there.

Chris: The next question on here, these were questions submitted by customers or patients here.

Josh: From Instagram, yeah.

Chris: From Instagram that — follow Deseret Wellness on Instagram because it’s great to be connected. I think that’s a good way too to find out about product.

Josh: Yeah, and if there’s any announcement that we want to make to our public we send out an email but we also put it on Instagram, that’s like our go-to-

Tim: It’s the only way they’ve allowed you to, not promote, but just to communicate to the public.

Josh: Yep, and we take full advantage of it.

Tim: Yeah, I think so far everybody does.

Josh: Yeah.

Tim: So people come in here and ask… Number two, Chris.

Chris: Number two is, why do other dispensaries get products before Deseret Wellness? An example: the Mother Liquor rosin. That’s a good question.

Josh: Yeah, it is a great question. We’re not integrated with any grower or any producer so we stand along as Deseret Wellness. There’s other pharmacies out there that have a grow division and they’re affiliated with a specific grower, and us being not that way, we lose out on something like Mother Liquor because it’s going to wherever. Wholesome, who’s getting it? I can’t remember.

Chris: Actually I think Dragonfly has some now too.

Josh: Is Dragonfly?

Tim: Yeah, but they’re vertically integrated, they have a grow, they have… And that’s what you’re talking about, right? If I have a grow I’m going to put my rosin that I made in my pharmacy.

Josh: Why would any smart business person give it to somebody else if they can sell it themselves in their pharmacy?

Tim: So an advantage to them to do that, but a disadvantage too.

Josh: Disadvantage in the sense that we can’t get it, but that also, we’re not beholden to any specific product.

Tim: This is the disadvantage to them and the advantage to you, because you get to choose the best product.

Josh: Yeah. We can choose what we have and we get to choose, like you said, the best products we have. We can cultivate specific relationships with a lot of our growers and making sure that we can secure other things a lot easier than some of the other vertically integrated pharmacies. It gives us a lot of freedom here at Deseret Wellness, we don’t answer to any grow side, so we sell what we think is quality, and what we have here at Deseret Wellness we think is quality. So we’re going to have the products in stock that we know are going to help people, the medicine that we feel is the best medicine for our patients here at Deseret Wellness.

Tim: As a pharmacist, do you think that’s an important distinction between you and the other pharmacists? Not that I’m asking you to talk negative about other pharmacists in the industry, but do you think that those vertically integrated businesses, the Wholesomes, the Dragonflys, do you think they’re going to have to fight against the corporation trying to push their own product?

Josh: I would say yes, they’re going to have to… They own that product, so they’ve got to sell it, right? So yeah, they’re going to sell it and hopefully make the most money they can out of it because we need to succeed as an industry that way. But at the same time, even in last week’s podcast, you guys talked about having the pharmacy affiliated with a grower, it sometimes pushes patients to a specific product. That pharmacy may feel that they need to push that product to their patient, and not to say that it’s a bad product and the product will help that patient. But here at Deseret Wellness, I think we have the opportunity to have variety of products in stock that people can choose from and specifically pick the product that we think is best for them, and that gives us a lot of freedom, like I said before, and a lot of benefit for our patients here.

Tim: I’m so glad that you said that all.

Josh: Yeah.

Chris: Do you want to ask number three here, Tim?

Tim: Yeah, I do. Does Deseret Wellness have their own cultivation or plans to do so? So, you’ve talked a little bit about that you don’t have your own cultivation but is there any plans to develop that?

Josh: There’s no plans but who’s to say, maybe later on if the market shifts that way, we’re open to it. We’re not going to shut down something that might benefit but it’s not on the table right now for sure. Definitely not, yeah.

Chris: Shoot, I’m even open to that…

Tim: I mean, I think that the more we’re involved in this, Chris, the more you and I have talked about off the mic, we’re learning so much about cannabis and about growing and about all this stuff, it would be so fun to put a couple of plants in your backyard, in the greenhouse in the backyard.

Chris: One day, one day.

Josh: Maybe one day we’ll get there, yeah.

Chris: It’s fun to talk to people in California that just kind of have some growing in their garden.

Josh: We have a lot of patients that have moved here from California and they talk about the old days when they were living there and they could have a few plants just to hang out in their backyard.

Chris: Could you imagine that?

Josh: There’s a guy that was in here last week and he was saying that he’s been growing the same plant here in Utah in his basement and he’s been growing it for seven years. He’s an oil worker and he left to go out of state to work on it, left it to his brother and his brother killed it. And he said the stalk was like four inches in diameter, it was an old, old plant.

Tim: An old mother.

Josh: Yeah, and it died, he was pretty sad and I was pretty sad for him.

Chris: Yeah. Wow. The next question on here is, if or when you guys are doing delivery, and I know you’ve talked about delivery a little bit-

Josh: Yeah, as soon as the state can authorize that and get it ready to go, we’re going to jump right on it.

Chris: And kind of an estimate, or a goal? Are we looking at a month or six months? Or you have no idea?

Josh: You know, we’re hoping sometime early next year, is what I’ll say. Yeah, early next year.

Chris: Let’s see here, I’m just going to keep going with these, Tim. He’s changing out the video there, we’re doing some video so we’ll see if we can do anything with this video, so pay attention to when we announce that, listeners.

Will the flower supply become more consistent? It seems like flower goes so quickly at all pharmacies. And when will more products be available? I know we kind of talked about that.

Josh: We talked about that, yeah. I think mid next year the market’s hopefully going to level out. I don’t have a lot of specifics and knowledge on that but talking to people in the industry, we’re hoping so.

Chris: It’s kind of a given, if you watch a lot of industries that open, it takes a little second to iron the kinks out.

Josh: Yeah.

Chris: I know I’ve said this on other podcasts, people got to remember there’s been a lot of wild stuff going on this year on top of rolling this out, so that’s kind of held things back too.

Josh: It’s been a crazy year-

Chris: If this year was as normal as every other year we probably could be way ahead.

Josh: Exactly.

Tim: Would you have had Park City open, do you think, in a normal year?

Josh: Yeah, we would hope we would have had it open by now, for sure.

Tim: I think you would have opened here in Provo earlier too, right? A few months earlier.

Josh: Yeah, probably about a month earlier if we could have. But yeah, COVID held us back on the build out, quite a bit. COVID held us back on hiring people and getting things up and running. So, we had some issues but we were able to overcome it in the end.

Chris: That’s what I think we all need to pay attention to, it’s like, “Hey, at least we have them.” It might not be perfect but we could not have anything.

Tim: I mean, there might not be the products you want but it’s already leaps and bounds better than it was in March and April and May. The availability of product is by far better now.

Josh: Much, much better, yeah.

Tim: And there’s a lot of product in the pipeline. We were just in Payson and, let me tell you, there’s a lot of product down there.

Josh: Where were you guys at?

Tim: We went to the Zion grow. We want to go out and see the Tryke facility too because we want to see, because the listeners, they want to know. What you can’t see, you don’t believe nowadays.

Josh: Exactly, yeah. It is coming. I tell this to people all the time, we’re kind of in the wild wild west of medical marijuana here in Utah and everything’s changed so fast and so quickly and we just need to be a little bit patient with it. We’re only into it six, seven months, really. We’ve developed a whole market in this amount of time, this is insane, this is great. Two years from now I think we’re going to be in a lot better spots.

Chris: Exactly.

Josh: Patience is key right now.

Tim: Okay, this last question is-

Chris: It’s a good one.

Tim: It is a good one, and one we’ve never asked anybody before.

Chris: I don’t think so.

Tim: Okay. Josh, is there a way to set up so my spouse could pick up my order? I’m wondering if there are many options for people who have a hard time traveling or can’t drive themselves?

Josh: Yes, there is an option. You can become a caregiver with the state, so if a patient is unable to come to a pharmacy, whether that’s because of age or any type of physical ailment that they can’t get here, you can have a family member or close friend get a caregiver card with the state that’s attached to your card that says that that person can pick up for you and purchase for you. That is key to a lot of people here and we’ve been trying to talk with people about that. There’s definitely that option for people to go get that.

Tim: How hard is it to get a caregiver card?

Josh: It’s a little bit tricky. That person has to be authorized, there’s a fee involved with it that’s like $75.

Tim: Yeah, it’s a background check.

Josh: Yeah.

Tim: It’s really associated with the background check with the state.

Josh: That’s where it’s going to? Yeah. We’ve had a handful of people here at Deseret Wellness that have become caregivers and it’s helped out their patient tremendously, so we’re excited. And we’ll help people with that process and answer questions if they have any questions for it.

Tim: And essentially you just need to justify, it sounds to me like what your saying is you just need to really justify that you need the caregiver.

Josh: Yep.

Tim: And you can do that by age, so anybody under 21, they’re going to need, or at least under 18, has to have a caregiver card. And then anybody in a facility, anybody who’s living in an assisted living facility could qualify for a card.

Josh: Hospice qualifies. Any type of physical disability.

Tim: If you can’t drive, right? Then get a caregiver who can come get your product.

Josh: To that same point, we’ll have delivery options available next year that we can deliver to your house if you’re not able to make it in.

Chris: I was going to say, that’s probably the best option too right there, the easiest once delivery starts getting… I mean the curbside too, they wouldn’t have to get out of the car, if somebody could drive them here, at least.

Josh: A lot of our cancer patients that have a hard time getting to the store, they’ll have someone drive them here, we go out there and help them at curbside and get their order taken care of. So, yeah, options for them.

Tim: Can you do a consultation curbside? I’m sure you’ve done it.

Josh: We haven’t done a technical one but we do offer a telehealth here, so we always have that available to people that can’t make it in. If you want somebody to come into your consult with you, say you’re just not feeling comfortable going in by yourself, we make those changes. We usually bring them into this room that we’re in here today and kind of have a group consult, with the whole family sometimes, it’s pretty cool. But yeah, we make accommodations for anybody that can’t do it the traditional way.

Chris: It kind of becomes a family situation because if there’s one person in the home using cannabis, kind of everybody is part of that, really.

Tim: Yeah, they’re going to know about it.

Josh: It really is.

Chris: Whether it’s smell, or something, you know.

Tim: Yeah and the buy-in on the cultural side, especially growing up here LDS, this religious community, you need to know, you know, what’s grandma doing that smells a little funny.

Chris: Yep.

Josh: So many of our patients come from people that’s using cannabis in the home and they’ve got a family member, like a mother or grandmother, somebody else that’s dealing with an issue that cannabis can help with. That’s what we love, that people are out there sharing this idea and this treatment method with other people. And yeah, come on in, we’ll take care of you, we’ll get it taken care of for you and have that consult here as a family. It’s really cool, like I said, to have a bunch of people in here.

Tim: It’s been cool to talk to you about that, it’s a good perspective.

Chris: Dude, you’ve given us so much new information even, different angles compared to some of the people that we’ve talked to. Any other questions? I don’t know. I’m trying to think of any other… Any other things that you want to discuss while the mics are hot? I’m trying to think just so we don’t… Cards need to be wrapped up by the end of the year.

Josh: Yeah, that’s one thing that we need to really point out.

Chris: I know we say that on every episode, but it’s important.

Tim: Yeah, we are two weeks away from your letter not being valid.

Josh: And we’ve got what, about 12 000 letters out there that the state’s estimating, last I heard.

Tim: Yeah, that’s what the state is estimating and we know that-

Josh: There’s got to be more, yeah.

Tim: And it’s still, literally two weeks away, people. This is-

Josh: We’ve been hounding people, every time they come in with a letter we’re like, “Please go get your card, please help us… Help you get that card.”

Chris: What are you hearing why people aren’t? What’s the biggest holdup?

Josh: Money, usually, they don’t want to pay the $15.

Chris: Okay, so it’s $15, really is all it is.

Tim: Well, and it’s a lot of these letters still are not associated with QMPs.

Josh: Yep, and that’s probably the second biggest holdup. Some of them too are just elderly people that don’t have that internet competency to go through with that whole EVS process, which is complicated.

Chris: Oh it’s hard.

Tim: Yes it is.

Josh: For us it’s totally fine, I can go in and do it, you can go in and do it but-

Chris: I’ve stumbled around on that thing.

Josh: But you put somebody in front of a computer that’s 65 year old and-

Tim: We were supposed to have it, in the original bill it was supposed to be done in the doctor’s office at the time you got your card, it was part of the statute. They took it out because it was too cumbersome and they might have, should have left it in because it is hard and we’ve gone back to that.

Josh: A lot of the QMPs are doing it still, the good ones are doing it there. All the QMPs that we see that are doing it, their patients are having a much better experience. So if the QMPs are hearing me right now, please help your patients get that because that’s the first step, pretty much, is right at that first visit and you need it taken care of. I’m scared the new year is going to roll around and we’re going to have all these people that can’t come in here and get what they’ve been taking and using and benefiting from for the last six months. I don’t want that to happen to anybody and I’m afraid it’s going to happen to a lot of people, unfortunately.

Tim: Well, we’ll be ready.

Josh: Yep, we’re here.

Chris: Actually, while we have you on the podcast, let’s promote Deseret Wellness a little bit over the holidays. Are you guys going to be open the day after Christmas? The day before Christmas? New Years? What’s the plans there?

Josh: The only hour changes we’re having right now is Christmas Eve we’re going to be closing at 5 o’clock. After that, Monday through Saturday, 7-11, normal hours.

Chris: So day after Christmas is normal, which I believe is Friday, the day after Christmas-

Tim: You’re open til how late?

Josh: On Christmas Eve?

Tim: No, normal hours.

Josh: Seven.

Tim: Normal hours is 7 PM. 11 AM to 7 PM, six days a week.

Josh: Six days a week, yep.

Tim: Got it.

Josh: We’re closed on Sundays down here.

Chris: Okay.

Tim: Cool, I mean, it’s appropriate, you can’t be open down here on Sundays, I think there must be some rule-

Chris: No, Beehive I know is Sunday, I think Wholesome’s Sunday, I know Dragonfly’s not Sunday.

Tim: Yeah, I think Beehive and Wholesome. But this is a great… I like coming down here, I don’t really mind the drive.

Chris: No, it’s not a bad drive, especially if you guys have the product I could see a lot of people from Salt Lake coming down here for-

Josh: Oh, yeah. People will go where the flower is right now so if you’ve got flower you’ll get people from anywhere in the state, really.

Chris: What’s Deseret Wellness on all the social medias? Instagram, Facebook, are you on Twitter, do you know? I mean Twitter’s kind of one of those…

Josh: I haven’t seen a Twitter account. But yeah, Deseret Wellness or Deseret-Wellness, we’ve taken most of those handles.

Tim: Well it was great talking to you, Josh.

Chris: Yeah, it was great-

Josh: Thanks for coming down here, guys. We appreciate this, it’s nice to have some good conversations around medical cannabis in Utah and exploring some different ideas, I think it’s great. Thanks for coming down.

Tim: Well you can get ahold of me at Utahmarijuana.org, you can see our… A couple of billboards up now.

Chris: Are they all over now?

Tim: They’re kind of all over now, which is exciting.

Chris: Are they all mostly in Salt Lake, though?

Tim: Yep, they are mostly in Salt Lake., we’ve got a couple in Ogden. But Utahmarijuana.org is a good place and we’ve written a couple of blog articles about the letter situation and what’s going to change come January first. Decent place, I think, to get information. And our podcasts are all up there with summaries and they’ll be transcribed, we’re catching up on those.

Josh: So people can to you if they want to even get their letter-

Tim: Yeah, we have an entire program, so if you go to Utahmarijuana.org and you chat with us online or you call us, no matter who your QMP is, we will help you navigate the system and there’s no cost associated with that.

Chris: Just the $15 though, for the-

Tim: Just the $15 for the state. We’ll reach out to your QMP and if they’re not planning on becoming a QMP… Or we’ll reach out to the person who wrote your letter, I should say, if they’re not planning on becoming a QMP-

Chris: It was at that moment that I looked down, I noticed that the recorder was off, the SD card was full. But I also knew that the recording was almost over so I didn’t want to bag the rest of the conversation. I just told Tim, I said, “Hey, I’ll just close this out at home, I’ll say a few words. I’ll close out the podcast.”

So anyway, here I am, thank you so much for listening to that episode with Josh and Deseret Wellness, such a good pharmacy here in Provo. Go check them out if you’re in the area, say hello and tell them that Utah in the Weeds sent you. We also set up a voicemail number that you can call in if you have any questions for Tim or myself, if you have any feedback you want to give, or if you want to be a guest on the podcast. Give us a call 385-215-9557, nobody will ever pick that up for you, it goes right to voicemail, say a few words, we might play it on a future episode of the podcast, we would love to hear from you.

You can listen to my other podcast at IamSaltLake.com, I am Salt Lake podcast, I do that with my wife, Krissie. Go check it out, we’ve got a brand new episode every week. We’re talking to business owners, artists, musicians, tattoo artists, everybody here in Salt Lake City. IamSaltLake.com, go check that out, and Utahmarijuana.org, go check that out. Make sure you get your card by January first, there, because those letters aren’t any good after the end of the year.

Anyway, that’s all we have to say, make sure you subscribe in iTunes or wherever you’re listening to this podcast and we’ll catch you next week on the next episode of Utah in the Weeds.

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Published January 22, 2021

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