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London Drugs, SDM weigh sale of medical marijuana

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — London Drugs vice president of pharmacy John Tse said the chain is exploring the idea of selling legal marijuana through its 79 pharmacies in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“When it gets classified as a legal product, Health Canada will most likely regulate it, because there are regulated producers as well,” he told a local radio talk show. “The product that’s being produced will also be very well controlled, and most likely deemed as a drug.

“We believe that it would be distributed — and should be distributed — through pharmacies, where pharmacies can help guide people to use this on a medical basis.”

Tse said London Drugs is doing the best it can to prepare to sell marijuana without knowing what the federal framework will look like. “We have gone through and discussed with our respective associations as well as provincially and federally to find out if we can have a better understanding of what that framework would look like, and unfortunately nobody knows because nobody is talking,” he said. “What we are doing is beginning to prepare our pharmacies from an educational standpoint.”

Tse said London Drugs is confident it can source out a supply of marijuana once it becomes legal. “It is a very interesting time from a health standpoint to control the distribution of it, understanding there is a need and a marketplace, that there needs to be guidance. We need to have physicians, Health Canada, pharmacies and regulatory bodies all working together to come up with a solution that is great for the Canadian public.”

Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM), with more than 1,300 locations across Canada, is also considering the role of a marijuana retailer. “Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the dispensing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” the company said in a recent statement. “We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option.”

According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, SDM has held meetings over the last few months with medical marijuana producers and suppliers about the idea of selling a generic line of legal marijuana through its pharmacies under the company’s own brand. The newspaper reported that a group of SDM executives have been touring sites of medical marijuana growers. The chain would not confirm such meetings.

Tse also acknowledged that there are several issues to resolve before London Drugs could start such a venture, from training pharmacists on how to dispense medical marijuana to obtaining additional literature on the effects of marijuana.

Also voicing its opinion on the issue is the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada. “Pharmacists are experts in medication and medication management,” said a spokesman for the group. “Our members have the systems and processes in place to manage medications, including monitoring, tracking usage and being aware of drug interactions.”

Under current regulations, the product can only be sold online because there is no regulatory procedure for retail sales. However, the federal government could make changes to that legislation as it designs the framework for legalization.


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