The logo for Shoppers Drug Mart is shown in downtown Toronto, on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Eduardo Lima

Shoppers Drug Mart issues job posting for medical marijuana brand manager

TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart is looking to hire a medical marijuana brand manager as it tries to position itself in the burgeoning cannabis market, even though it is not currently legal to distribute the drug through pharmacies.

A job posting on the website of Canada’s largest pharmacy says the senior brand manager role will entail leading its strategy and marketing activities to doctors and health-care providers in the cannabis space.

“The development and integration of the medical brand plan will involve the consideration of the current cannabis market legislation, regulations and access challenges,” the posting reads.

Shoppers adds that the winning candidate will also ensure that its medical pot marketing material is compliant with Health Canada regulations.

This comes after Shoppers’ parent company, Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L), applied for a Health Canada licence to dispense medical marijuana in October 2016.

Under current federal regulations, the only legal distribution method for medical marijuana is by mail order from licensed producers direct to consumers.

That means even if the application gets the green light, it won’t be permitted to sell medical marijuana through its stores unless Ottawa revises the rules.

Loblaw is preparing to be ready, said spokeswoman Catherine Thomas in an email, and the company believes pharmacists should play a role.

“As the federal and provincial governments finalize their respective cannabis frameworks, we remain optimistic that they will allow pharmacists to apply their professional care to medical cannabis patients,” she said, adding the company will follow all laws and regulations.

The step also comes as the federal government moves towards a July 2018 deadline to make recreational marijuana legal.

Loblaw’s CEO and chairman Galen Weston said last May that he is open to being involved with recreational marijuana. The company is watching for details about the proposed legalization of the drug, but its focus remains on dispensing medical cannabis. But in 2016, Weston said the company was only interested in medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, other companies are also trying to get a head start on the potential distribution of marijuana through pharmacies.

Licensed producer Maricann Group Inc. announced Monday that it entered into a letter of intent with Lovell Drugs Limited, which has a dozen pharmacies across Ontario, to be its primary and exclusive provider of medicinal cannabis for its patients.

“We believe that pharmacies are the best distribution points for medicinal cannabis, as is the case for all other prescriptions,” said Ben Ward, CEO of Maricann, in a statement.

And in March, licensed producers CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. signed a letter of intent with member-owned co-operative PharmaChoice. Under the agreement, which the companies said was the first exclusive pharmacy distribution agreement for medical cannabis, CanniMed would train PharmaChoice pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across Canada and become its exclusive distributor of medical cannabis.

However, the companies said the deal is on hold until the first legislation change that allows pharmacies to distribute medical cannabis, and will be completed within 60 days of that change.

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