In yet another audacious move from Canada’s biggest pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart has announced a new deal with cannabis producer Aphria Inc.

Despite the fact that there continues to be no official word on whether pharmacies will distribute medical marijuana once nationwide recreational legalization rolls out next summer, Aphria has signed a five-year agreement with Shoppers to become its “first and preferred supplier of medical cannabis” if the pharmacy gets the green light from Health Canada, according to Aphria chief executive Vic Neufeld.  

"This is a big moment for Aphria," Neufeld said. "We have an opportunity to grow as Shoppers Drug Mart grows."

While it’s been months since Canadian pharmacies began lobbying the federal government to become medical marijuana distributors, current regulations only allow marijuana to be distributed via mail order from licensed producers.

Earlier this month, however, Shoppers posted a vacancy for a medical marijuana brand manager.

"The development and integration of the medical brand plan will involve the consideration of the current cannabis market; legislation, regulations and access challenges," the posting stated.

This bold move came after Loblaw Companies Ltd. – Shoppers’ parent company – applied for a license from Health Canada to dispense medical marijuana.

Shoppers is far from the only pharmacy chain trying to edge its way into the Canadian cannabis market, however.

This fall, licensed producer Maricann Group Inc. entered into a letter of intent to be the exclusive medical cannabis provider for Lovell Drug Limited – and earlier this year, licensed producer CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. signed its own letter of intent detailing a similar arrangement with PharmaChoice.

Canada is set to legalize cannabis for recreational use on July 1, 2018. There is no timeline concerning if or when the federal government might approve Shoppers’ application – or give the go-ahead to any Canadian pharmacies to distribute cannabis of any kind.

h/t The Globe and Mail