Galen G. Weston - president and executive chairman of Loblaw - says drugstores would be a more appropriate supplier of medical marijuana than the the current system that sees licensed producers supplying patients through a mail-order system.

"We're an industry that is extremely effective at managing controlled substances," said Weston, after the company's annual general meeting Thursday.

Weston says the 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart stores, and the pharmacy counters in its grocery stores, would dispense medical marijuana if the federal government changed the government rules to allow it.

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.

"It gives pharmacists the opportunity to work directly in real time with patients as opposed to doing it through the mail, working on their doses and making sure it actually has the therapeutic effect that it is intended to have," said Weston.

Weston was advancing previous public statements by company officials that Loblaw's Shoppers Drug Mart chain was exploring possibility of getting into the cannabis industry.

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

In April, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) - a group representing individual pharmacists across the country - called on the federal government to let pharmacists take the lead on managing and dispensing medical marijuana to Canada's 50,000+ eligible patients.

"Pharmacists are medication experts and play a critical role in the management and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use," Phil Emberley - Director of Professional Affairs for CPhA - said in a press release. "And it is patient safety that is ultimately at the heart of CPhA's decision to update its position on the role of pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical marijuana."

h/t Toronto Star.