Two of Canada’s biggest pharmacy chains are contemplating making heavy entries into the country’s emerging market for sanctioned marijuana.
According to a February 23 Globe and Mail report, Shoppers Drug Mart is discussing how it might sell medicinal cannabis.
“Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. has held multiple meetings and phone conversations with licensed medical-marijuana producers across Canada over the past year about carrying a variety of brands in their drugstores, according to people involved in those conversations,” reads the article by Grant Robertson and Greg McArthur.
“A small team of executives from Shoppers is said to have been touring the sites of medical-marijuana growers over the past several months, holding talks with several of the 29 federally licensed producers,” it continues.
Shoppers Drug Mart has more than 1,300 locations across Canada. The chain is owned by Loblaw Companies, the country’s larger food retailer.
According to CKNW, London Drugs is also considering selling marijuana.
A February 24 report quotes London Drugs vice-president of pharmacies, John Tse. “We believe that it would be distributed—and should be distributed—through pharmacies where pharmacies can help guide people to use this on a medical basis,” he said.
London Drugs only has some 80 locations but maintains a strong presence in Vancouver and throughout Western Canada.
For pharmacies to sell cannabis over the counter, the federal government would first have to revise the former Conservative administration's Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which only permit the drug to be distributed via a mail-order system.
Meanwhile, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne has said reiterated her position that recreational marijuana should be sold in liquor stores. She told the Globe that would not necessarily mean pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart should not sell medicinal cannabis.
“I want to separate the two subjects, because there’s a discussion around medicine and medication,” Wynne said. “In the discussion around medical marijuana, I understand Shoppers Drug Mart is having that conversation and that’s their prerogative,” Wynne said.
B.C. health minister Terry Lake has similarly said he would like to see recreational marijuana sold in liquor stores.
While Ottawa continues with early steps in its plan to legalize recreational marijuana, Vancouver and Victoria continue to move ahead with regulatory schemes for storefront dispensaries.