Friday, November 17, 2017

Medical Marijuana in Pharmacies - Will it Happen?

Hello rxBriefCase,

Marijuana has been in the news continuously for the past few months, with emphasis on the recreational marijuana deadline in July 2018. A couple weeks ago, the Liquor Control Board Ontario (LCBO) announced the first 14 cities to have shops that will be selling legalized recreational marijuana. Now that the recreational marijuana framework and dispensaries have been established, people have moved on to the next big thing - medicinal cannabis.
Shoppers Drug Mart just posted a job for a medical marijuana brand manager position, despite pharmacies not yet having the role of dispensing medical marijuana.1 Handling medicinal cannabis dispensing has been a goal for Loblaw Companies Ltd., the company which also owns Shoppers Drug Mart, since they applied for a Health Canada license last year.1 Other pharmacy companies are also looking to dispense  medicinal cannabis under the belief that pharmacies are ideal distribution locations, just like for any other prescription medication.1
Based on a recent study, it appears it's not just the pharmacy companies who think this is a promising idea - so does the public.2 The data from the new study done by the Ontario Pharmacist Association (OPA) shows that more than 7 out of 10 adult Ontario residents trust pharmacists to dispense medical marijuana.2 Furthermore, 56% of the survey participants indicated preferring medicinal cannabis being dispensed at pharmacies, compared to other alternatives.2

This is not the way the medical marijuana dispensary framework is currently set up, and not using pharmacists in this process could create safety risks for patients.2 This may be a missed opportunity for patients, as they forgo access to advice and information that could benefit their overall health. Pharmacists are the drug experts and can monitor for treatment effectiveness, side effects and identify potential risks (i.e. drug interactions or contraindications).2

Pharmacists are experts at reviewing prescriptions, dispensing medications, identifying drug interactions and counselling patients. We have a lot of practice with these activities, however, this may not be true when it comes to medical marijuana. Some pharmacists may see this new role as an opportunity to expand on our skill set and apply our drug expertise further. Others may feel uncomfortable dispensing medical marijuana as it will require developing new skills and obtaining new knowledge to provide patients the best care possible. 

With medicinal cannabis potentially being dispensed from pharmacies, it is very important that pharmacists receive education and training to help them prepare for a potential role in medical marijuana dispensing.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel prepared?

Note: There are medical marijuana continuing education options available for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals.

Ontario pharmacists can have their continuing education costs subsidized with the help of allied health professional development funds from HealthForceOntario ($1,500 per year). 


1. The Canadian Press. (2017, November 13). Shoppers Drug Mart posts job for medical marijuana brand manager. CBC News. Retrieved from

2. Baker, J. (2017, November 12). OPINION: Ontarians trust pharmacists to dispense medicinal cannabis, data shows. Toronto Sun. Retrieved from