When compounding pharmacy meets cannabis programming

By Jacob Hoytema – 

It’s inaccurate to say that Hybrid Pharm is just Westboro’s newest compounding pharmacy, or that it’s Westboro’s newest medical cannabis vendor. While it’s really a fusion of both these things, their business approach is different enough from any similar establishments that it makes it tough to categorize.

Hybrid Pharm, which is set to open this summer, is the project of local pharmacist and businessman Rahim Dhalla. Rahim’s plan was to start a pharmacy that would also serve as an information and access point for patients using medicinal cannabis. To help him with this vision, he enlisted Angelo Muscari, who had previously been a clinic manager at National Access Cannabis in Wellington Village.

Hybrid Pharm owner-operator, Rahim Dhalla, and clinic manager, Angelo Muscari. Their business partnership represents a crossover of the pharmaceutical and medical cannabis industry. Photo by Jacob Hoytema

“A big part of our platform is that we’re trying to provide a community for people to come and get educated,” Rahim says, explaining the intended outreach aspect of their business. “It’s all about healing and lifestyle modification, it’s not just about taking a pill, it’s not just about taking a medicine.”

When they open in the summer, the business won’t actually be selling any cannabis products at first, Rahim says. Instead, they’ll focus on educational programming around the use of the drug, and giving patients the legal registration to purchase medicinal cannabis.

In other words, until they’re ready to start selling the products, they’ll just be a regular compounding pharmacy that also happens to run cannabis-related programming and education.

Rahim was inspired to tap into the emerging industry after observing his father’s experience using a cannabis oil product while battling cancer. His father, Aziz Dhalla, had owned and run a number of Ottawa-area pharmacies, and had trained his son in the trade.

“I was pretty much raised in a pharmacy. When I was twelve, he would put me to work as a stock boy,” says Rahim.

After Aziz passed away in 2016, Rahim says others would approach him for help finding medicinal cannabis products like the ones his father used. He says this experience informed his vision for Hybrid Pharm.

“A big part of healing is talking to somebody, and being around people with the same type of illness and the same type of suffering so you can talk about it, share your experiences,” he explains.

Clinic manager Angelo, whose background is in the medical cannabis field, says that informing clients about the industry through workshops and one-on-one interactions has been a big part of his job.

“I had an educational call yesterday last about forty-five minutes,” Angelo tells the Kitchissippi Times.

“It’s important to have a place where you can come in and ask questions,” he adds. “I deal with many patients who have been self-medicating with cannabis for over thirty years, and they don’t even know some of the pros and cons.”

Aware of the stigmas that surround the industry, Rahim and Angelo always use the word “cannabis” rather than “marijuana,” which they say comes with too many negative connotations. They also reject the term “dispensary” for their business. They seem eager to distance themselves from the controversial “grey market” cannabis industry, and instead be more associated with alternative medicine.

For example, they’ve been running a social media campaign called “#FarmtoPharm,” which seeks to make a connection between pharmaceuticals and the plant-based ingredients from which they are derived. Angelo also has experience running an “accuvape” class, which is a session combining vaporized cannabis with acupuncture and meditation.

Their location is at 318 Richmond Rd., where NRML Select used to be. The interior is currently under construction. Rahim says they’re planning an open main area for the pharmacy, along with a couple of clinic rooms.

Hybrid Pharm will eventually be posting details regarding their opening date and programming on their website, hybridpharm.com.

Word on the street

By Rebecca Atkinson – 

We asked some residents what they thought of the addition of Hybrid Pharm to Westboro. Here’s what they had to say:

Anastasia Laking: “I don’t have a problem with it, not at all. I don’t use [cannabis] myself. But I’d rather see this than someone around the corner in an alleyway selling fentanyl where it’s not controlled. It shouldn’t change people’s perspectives on Westboro. I’d rather see it controlled – one of my friends uses cannabis oil – honestly I’d rather see that and it shouldn’t make a difference.”
Ross Baylin: “I’m interested in the medicinal side of cannabis. Especially because we’re an aging population and we don’t like pain. Traditional medicine doesn’t provide all the answers.”
Norm Leckie: “I’m all in favor of it.… It shouldn’t matter, it’s going to be more and more acceptable. There’s benefits to it. It sells a pure product. You can trust a product when it’s sold in these places.”

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