With legalization looming in Canada, several drugstore chains there are making the case for selling legal medical marijuana in pharmacies.
Canada’s youthful Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised his Liberal Party government will legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana for both recreational and medical use. While using cannabis for medical purposes has been legal in Canada since 2001, currently it can only be sold online with a prescription and delivered by mail because there’s no regulatory procedure for retail sales. That may soon change.
Smelling a lucrative new market, two of Canada’s leading drugstore chains, Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) and London Drugs, are exploring becoming marijuana retailers. “Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the dispensing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” SDM said in a statement, adding, “We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option.” SDM, which operates some 1,300 drug stores across Canada, is reported to be talking to several licensed medical marijuana producers in Canada about the possibility of selling their brands in its stores as well as its own brand of medical pot, according to The Globe and Mail. Its smaller rival, London Drugs, with about 80 locations in western Canada, is educating its pharmacies ahead of the possible regulatory change.
A 2015 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada allowing edibles to be used by medical marijuana patients suggests that the pot sold in pharmacies will likely be restricted to edibles or oils, rather than bud form.
Legalization of marijuana by Canada is expected to create a multibillion-dollar industry virtually overnight — one that pharmacies want a piece of. While a new report by CIBC Markets projects that legalizing marijuana in Canada could create a C$10 billion annual industry, Health Canada pegs the mature medical marijuana market at a fraction of that — approximately C$1.3 billion.
While it’s anyone’s guess as to just when medical marijuana will hit drugstore shelves, with a pot-friendly government installed in Ottawa it’s likely only a matter of time.
Alexandra Biesada shops every day, whether she wants to or not, and pines for the days when it was strictly a recreational activity. She has covered the retail beat for Hoover’s since 2001. Follow her on Twitter.