Drug stores in Canada are looking to get into the medical marijuana business. The Globe and Mail reports that Shoppers Drug Mart, a retail chain with more than 1,300 stores across the country, has been in talks to start dispensing cannabis.
Right now in Canada, medical marijuana is only available through licensed producers regulated by the federal government. And all medical marijuana is dispensed in the mail using Canada Post. There are no regulations for selling medical marijuana through retail outlets, despite a growing number of illegal dispensaries.
"Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the prescribing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use," Shoppers Drug Mart spokeswoman Tammy Smitham told the Globe and Mail. "We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option."
The move makes sense at a time when the entire country is talking about the Prime Minister's promise to legalize recreational cannabis.
Supreme Court ruling helps reduce stigma of medical marijuana
A recent Supreme Court ruling has changed the medical marijuana industry, too. Up until June 2015, only flowers were allowed to be sold by LPs. Now, cannabis is allowed to be sold in the form of oil.
Mark Gobuty is the chief executive of Peace Naturals Project Inc. He told the Globe that the ruling changes the potential retail market significantly.
"The stigma has come down significantly and you're got a delivery system now that doesn't require smoking. It's obviously highly counterintuitive to physicians to prescribe something that you have to smoke," he said. "This to [the drugstore chains] is in their wheelhouse. This they can deal with. If you get a dollar or two, or four dollars per bottle, it's an incremental source of revenue. It's organic growth for them. And everybody's looking for that."
Gobuty also says two large pharmacy chains had approached his company in the past six months to see about supply and whether his company could be a potential supplier.
For now, Shoppers Drug Mart's biggest rival says it's not getting into the cannabis space. "Rexall is not exploring any options or initiatives related to medical marijuana," company spokesman Derek Tupling told the Globe.
Meanwhile, politicians in Canada continue to talk about the potential of selling recreational marijuana in liquor stores.
This Hour Has 22 Minutes has this take on the situation.