How pharmacies could shape the face of medical cannabis sales

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With the number of medical cannabis patients expected to rise to 450,000 by 2024[1], Canada is desperately in need of a better system for prescribing and dispensing medical cannabis. The question currently up for debate is: How can Canadian pharmacists benefit from revenue generated by medical cannabis sales while providing patients with the safest access to their medication?

A flawed medical cannabis system
Until now, patients have only been able to access medical cannabis by ordering online from their licensed producer. While licensed producers (LPs) have a great deal of knowledge about the strains they grow, they have no knowledge about the medical history, allergies, and current additional medications of an individual patient, nor do they necessarily have experience and training in medications and pharmaceuticals other than those that are cannabis-based.

70%[2] of general physicians surveyed have reported feeling “uncomfortable prescribing medical marijuana”. Many stated that their discomfort was largely due to the industry’s inability to fit into the standard pharmaceutical practices associated with prescribing a medication.

And with the inability to prescribe the medication through the traditional channels, the Canadian Medical Association has gone as far as to ask the Canadian government to dismantle[3] the current medical cannabis system altogether. Leaders in the organization argued that following recreational legalization, physicians will no longer need to be involved if patients wish to access Cannabis.

The flaw in the logic here is that patients using cannabis for medical purposes will continue to require the advice and guidance of health professionals in determining dosages, interactions with other medications, and the management and mitigation of symptoms. This need continues to exist regardless of whether recreational cannabis is legal or not.

How pharmacists can help
We would agree with the Canadian Pharmacists Association[4] that pharmacies should play a major role in the way that medical cannabis is dispensed to patients. This is a logical conclusion, given that pharmacies already have a solid infrastructure in place to handle controlled substances, and that Canadian consumers have an existing level of trust in a pharmacist’s expertise. Seven out of ten[5] Ontarians believe they should be able to obtain their medical cannabis from a pharmacist, just like any other prescription drug.

Shoppers Drug Mart (“Shoppers”) was recently granted licensed producer status to enable the chain to dispense medical cannabis to patients. It is important to note that Shoppers was approved under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), and approval under this act did not give LPs access to specific classes or subclass licences. Thus, under this act LPs are automatically authorized to produce medical cannabis seeds and oils and sell it. In a post October 17 world, LPs approved under the ACMPR act will automatically transition under the Cannabis Act to licensees for cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis.

Under the Cannabis Act, pharmacies can apply for a licence for sale for medical purposes.  Though Shoppers’ market roll-out plan has yet to be published, their move towards the medical cannabis sphere will inevitably need to be followed by individual pharmacy owners.

Thinking of adding a licence for sale of medical cannabis? Allow us to help
While you may have identified medical cannabis as a revenue growth opportunity for your pharmacy, the process of structuring your business to dispense the medication can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to quickly get tangled in red tape on the road to optimizing your pharmacy’s cannabis strategy.

Our team has a strong background in the cannabis sector and are actively engaged in servicing our clients in this space. In addition, we have several years of experience servicing the accounting and tax needs of pharmacies and we are ready to work with you to get your pharmacy positioned to add cannabis to your product line.

To learn more, contact the Zeifmans Cannabis Team members Robert Grunwald, Larry Zeifman, Robert Benmergui,  or Jennifer Chasson  by calling our office at 416.256.4000, or emailing us at info@zeifmans.ca.

[1] Workplace Safety and Prevention Services, “By 2024, 450,000 Canadians Could Be Using Medical Marijuana. Get Ready”, http://www.wsps.ca/Information-Resources/Articles/By-2024,-450,000-Canadians-could-be-using-medical.aspx

[2] Environics Research, “Medical Marijuana in Canada: The Doctor’s Dilemma”, https://environicsresearch.com/insights/medical-marijuana-canada-doctors-dilemma/

[3] CBC, “Medical Marijuana System Will Continue After Legalization, Says Health Canada”, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/health-canada-medical-marijuana-continue-1.4820377

[4] Financial Post, “Shoppers Drug Mart Gets Medical Pot License From Health Canada”, https://business.financialpost.com/cannabis/shoppers-drug-mart-gets-medical-pot-license-from-health-canada

[5] Cision, “Ensuring Patient Safety of Cannabis Now More Important Than Ever”, https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/ensuring-patient-safety-of-cannabis-now-more-important-than-ever-690874881.html