Pubdate: Sat, 20 Jan 2018
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Armina Ligaya
Page: FP3


Pharmacies push to dispense medical cannabis

TORONTO * Shoppers Drug Mart has lined up a third cannabis supply
agreement as part of its ambition to dispense the drug amid what
experts say is increasing support among pharmacists to distribute
medical pot and expectations that the regulatory framework needed will
come to fruition.

The latest deal, announced Friday, is with B.C.based licensed
marijuana producer Tilray Canada Ltd. to supply branded medical
cannabis products and is conditional upon Health Canada's approval of
Shoppers' application to dispense medical marijuana.

A spokesman for Loblaw Companies Ltd., Shoppers' parent company, said
it could not speculate on if, or when, it will be approved. Loblaw
first applied for a licence in 2016.

Current Health Canada regulations stipulate that the only legal way to
distribute medical marijuana is through online orders shipped through
the mail.

That has been the system since the new commercial-scale medical
marijuana system was rolled out in 2014.

However, proposed new regulations suggest options to control the sale
of marijuana could include pharmacy distribution.

As the government looks at marijuana policy ahead of a summer target
to make recreational marijuana sales legal, Shoppers appears confident
changes will also be made to medical regulations.

"As the federal and provincial governments finalize their respective
cannabis frameworks, we remain optimistic that they will allow
pharmacists in stores, in communities to apply their professional care
to medical cannabis patients," said Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh in a

Shoppers could create an online hub for various licensed producers,
but if policies change, it could also distribute in store through its
network of pharmacies.

The pharmacy industry has been laying the groundwork and with big
changes coming to the recreational side, it will be easier to make
changes to the medical policies as well - particularly for pharmacies
that have long handled controlled substances, according to Vahan
Ajamian, an analyst with Beacon Securities.

"It's obvious that the pharmacies are lobbying, they're pushing ahead.
They want to make money distributing this."

A spokesman for Health Canada said that enabling cannabis for medical
purposes to be sold in pharmacies would require support from the
provinces and territories, provincial regulatory authorities and

"Health Canada is open to discussing other models of distribution,
including pharmacy distribution, to enhance access to cannabis for
medical purposes," the government agency said in an emailed statement
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