Meet Astrid, an Aussie dispensary putting the high in high-end CBD products
Since the sale and use of medicinal cannabinoids was legalised in Australia around two years ago, CBD dispensaries have started to pop up across the country and online, offering products and services to those with prescriptions. Now there are more than 300 dispensaries around the country, including some high-end brands that are differentiating themselves with a focus on wellness and education. One such brand is Melbourne-based Astrid, which is looking to expand its operations beyond cannab
nabinoid medicine to include plant-based therapies and nutraceuticals, and the creation of its own-brand treatments and clothing lines.
Founder Lisa Nguyen told Inside Retail the business was born after she realised the journey to getting a CBD product through more traditional channels was clunky, often making the customer feel awkward and uncomfortable.
“Back then it was my job to educate healthcare professionals, and I saw an opportunity as a pharmacist myself to open a dispensary,” Nguyen said.
“We really wanted to simplify the experience for customers and create a boutique and unique patient experience. It’s really evolved, and I feel like Astrid is a lot more than a pharmacy now, we’re a community.”
Currently, Astrid has only one store in South Yarra, Melbourne, though it will be launching its second location in Byron Bay in early February, followed by a third store in Brisbane by the end of 2023.
Although the business currently sells third-party products through its South Yarra location, Nguyen has plans to create her own, Astrid-branded products, such as vaporisers and skincare, to be sold throughout its business as it grows.
“We’re moving to be more of a wellness brand, rather than a cannabis brand,” Nguyen said.
“For anything that is prescription, which is cannabinoids, we’ll still carry all the different options as they’re prescribed by a doctor, rather than picked on a shelf. But, anything over the counter, which is non-prescription, will be from our own Astrid-branded range.
“Plus, we’ll be launching products like leggings, activewear and T-shirts.”
Despite having been legal for over two years, the cannabinoid industry is still facing some legislative issues in Australia. For one, it’s illegal for people to drive with any trace – not matter how small – of cannabinoid in their system.
To Nguyen, this is one of the biggest barriers to the more widespread adoption of medicinal cannabis.
“Regularly my nurses and pharmacists will have to tell someone that they’ll be unable to drive after having taken their CBD-based medicine, and it can become really frustrating because we can see the pain that people are in,” Nguyen said.
“And when they just want to go pick up their kids from school or drive to their local supermarket or whatever, but they legally can’t, that makes things really hard.”
This is one of the reasons that Astrid not only tries to be a safe space for customers to educate themselves about the impact, benefits and downsides of CBD-based medicine, but also supports advocacy groups that are looking to improve the way CBD is both prescribed and legislated.
For example, the business recently helped Swinburne University recruit patients for a trial to better understand the impact of medicinal cannabis on people’s ability to drive. The trial will involve a driving simulation.
“Education is the key driver to any policy change,” Nguyen said.
“I really think the government needs to look at the way prescriptions are made. Right now, it has to be done by a GP. But there’s no reason a naturopath or an allied health professional couldn’t suggest and prescribe it for something like joint pain or anxiety.”
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