Pharmacies best positioned to dispense medical pot, national group says

TORONTO -- Pharmacies are best equipped to dispense medical marijuana given their expertise in prescription drug management, says a national group that represents some of the country's biggest drugstores.

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"(Our) members are really in the right position to manage the distribution and patient access," Allan Austin, a spokesman for the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, said Wednesday.

"Pharmacists are experts in medication and medication management. Our members have the systems and processes in place to manage medications including monitoring, tracking usage, being aware of drug interactions."

The association's members include London Drugs, I.D.A. and Rexall.

Shoppers Drug Mart also weighed in on the issue Wednesday with a similarly phrased statement.

"Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the dispensing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use," company spokeswoman Tammy Smitham said in an email.

"We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option."

Canada's largest drugstore chain made the comments after the Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources, reported that Shoppers is looking at the possibility of selling medical marijuana.

The Globe reported that Shoppers, which is owned by Loblaw (TSX:L), has held several meetings with medical marijuana producers and suppliers over the past year.

Smitham would not confirm such meetings have taken place.

Current Health Canada regulations stipulate that the only legal method to obtain medical marijuana is through a licensed producer. Therefore, pharmacies are not permitted to dispense medical marijuana.

Marc Gobuty, founder and CEO of Peace Naturals Project, a producer licensed by Health Canada to grow medical marijuana, said he has met with some major drugstore chains but would not say which ones.

Gobuty said there's been interest by the drugstore chains to dispense medical marijuana because offering infused oils is now a "viable option." He said he spoke with the companies about a supply agreement, but their offer was of no interest to his company.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana users can legally use various forms of the drug, including oils.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association reiterated its position that it is concerned about the health effects of marijuana, saying Wednesday that a statement it issued in November still stands.

"In addition, the pharmacy community is increasingly concerned about patient safety and clinical oversight regarding the use of medical marijuana," the statement says.

"As such, CPhA is currently reviewing its existing policies to ensure its policy position regarding pharmacist dispensing of medical marijuana reflects patient safety in this evolving area."



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