While medical marijuana patients in Canada currently only have access to their medicine by way of mail order, the nation’s largest drugstore chain hopes to expand the distribution by stocking a variety of cannabis products in over a thousand stores across the 10 provinces.
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. is reportedly in negotiations with a number of cannabis producers all over the country in an attempt to strike a package and supply deal that would allow all of the company’s 1,300 pharmacies to carry a generic version of marijuana branded with the Shoppers name.
A report from The Globe and Mail indicates that a group of executives from the company have been engaged in a number of meetings with federally licensed pot producers over the past few weeks in hopes taking Canada’s medical marijuana program to the next level. A representative for the drugstore chain confirmed these plans by suggesting that trained pharmacists should be responsible for dispensing cannabis medicine.
“Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the prescribing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” Tammy Smitham, a company spokesperson, told G&M. “We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option.”
The implications behind this deal are immense, especially considering that the Canadian government is now working to completely end pot prohibition and wants to establish a taxed and regulated marketplace for which to allow its citizens to purchase weed no differently than they do beer. By getting the ball rolling, Shoppers Drug Mart is positioning itself to become one of Canada’s first national retail outlets to sell cannabis products to the masses – a concept equal to stores such as CVS and Wal-Mart selling alcohol in the United States.
Although Canadian pharmacies were not originally keen on the idea of selling medical marijuana, a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing edible cannabis to be used by patients has opened up some of these companies to the idea of getting in on the business. However, pharmacies, like Shoppers, would not likely sell raw cannabis as it is typical seen in dispensaries here in the U.S., but they would stock various oils and other edible products.
In order for any pharmacy chain to begin selling medical marijuana, they would first need to obtain permission in the form of a distribution license from Health Canada. But before this could ever happen, the Canadian government would need to adjust its distribution policies to provide a path for a retail scheme to take shape. As it stands, medical marijuana is sold exclusively online.
Interestingly, once the U.S. government finally decides to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, it can be expected that many national retail chains will jump onboard in an effort to cash in on a billion dollar industry. This is when everything will start to change in the realm of those medical marijuana program designed for individual states. It is conceivable, and distinctly possible that federal regulations, allowing doctors to freely prescribe cannabis and pharmacies to sell it, would create a system where smoking weed would no longer be an acceptable or legal form of consumption – not for anyone.
This restrictive concept is already happening in states like New York, which NORML founder Keith Stroup believes to be a model for national policy. Therefore, it has become crucial at this juncture to understand that the nationwide legalization of medical marijuana stands to eliminate a number of liberties enjoyed by patients in many of the 23 states and the District of Columbia with programs already in place. The federal government is never going to allow cannabis to be “smoked” as long as it is deemed “for medicinal purposes only,” which is all the more reason for the collective marijuana reform community to rally in support of ending prohibition, once and for all.
By treating marijuana similar to alcohol and tobacco, the majority of our freedoms, specifically the ability to “smoke pot,” would remain intact, and every adult citizen would be allowed to use cannabis products for whatever purpose they see fit. Nationwide medicinal use only tightens a very short leash.