TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart has lined up its third cannabis supply agreement as part of its ambition to dispense the drug amid what experts say is increasing support among pharmacists to distribute medical pot and expectations that the regulatory framework needed will come to fruition.
The latest deal, announced Friday, is with B.C.-based licensed marijuana producer Tilray Canada Ltd. to supply branded medical cannabis products and is conditional upon Health Canada’s approval of Shoppers’ application to dispense medical marijuana.
A spokesman for Loblaw Companies Ltd., Shoppers’ parent company, said it could not speculate on if, or when, it will be approved.
Current Health Canada regulations stipulate that the only legal way to distribute medical marijuana is through online orders shipped through the mail.
That has been the system since the new commercial scale medical marijuana system was rolled out in 2014. But with the government looking critically at marijuana policy as it approaches a summer target to make recreational marijuana sales legal, Shoppers is hopeful changes will also be made to medical policies.
“As the federal and provincial governments finalize their respective cannabis frameworks, we remain optimistic that they will allow pharmacists in stores, in communities to apply their professional care to medical cannabis patients,” said Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh in a statement.
Tilray’s announcement comes after Shoppers signed similar deals last year with Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH) and MedReleaf MedReleaf (TSX:LEAF).
But it also comes two days after L’Association Québécoise des Pharmaciens Propriétaires representing pharmacists in Quebec, called on the provincial government to include measures that would allow trained pharmacists to distribute cannabis.
Jonathan Zaid, the executive director of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana said the pharmacy community overall is progressing towards support of dispensing cannabis.
“We are starting to see a shift of both the professional side of pharmacists, but also the college and regulatory side of pharmacists, towards support of distribution for medical purposes,” he said.
Meanwhile, other pharmacies have also been lining up supply agreements with licensed producers, including deals between Maricann Group Inc. and Lovell Drugs Limited and CanniMed Therapeutics and PharmaChoice.
Vahan Ajamian, an analyst with Beacon Securities, says the pharmacy industry has been laying the groundwork and with big changes coming to the recreational side, it will be easier to make changes to the medical policies as well, particularly for pharmacies that have long handled controlled substances.
“It’s obvious that the pharmacies are lobbying, they’re pushing ahead. They want to make money distributing this.”
Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press