Neil Closner, MedReleaf, chief executive officer poses for photographs at the growing facility in Markham, Ont., on January 7, 2016. Medical marijuana producer MedReleaf says it has signed an agreement to become a medical cannabis supplier to Shoppers Drug Mart.The company says it will supply Canada’s largest pharmacy retailer with MedReleaf branded medical cannabis products, subject to Health Canada approving Shoppers Drug Mart’s application to dispense medical marijuana. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Shoppers Drug Mart optimistic on pharmacies selling pot, signs 3rd supply deal

TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart has lined up a 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. (TSX:L), Shoppers’ parent company, said it could not speculate on if, or when, it will be approved. Loblaw first applied for a licence in 2016.

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.

However, proposed new regulations suggest options to control the sale of marijuana could include pharmacy distribution.

As the government looks critically at marijuana policy ahead of a summer target to make recreational marijuana sales legal, Shoppers appears confident changes will also be made to medical regulations.

“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.

Shoppers could create an online hub for various licensed producers, but if policies change, it could also distribute in store through its network of pharmacies, enabling it to reach even more consumers.

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, according to Vahan Ajamian, an analyst with Beacon Securities.

“It’s obvious that the pharmacies are lobbying, they’re pushing ahead. They want to make money distributing this.”

Shoppers has already locked up supply deals with licensed producers Aphria Inc. (TSX:APH) and MedReleaf (TSX:LEAF).

Pharmacists are also throwing their support behind selling pot.

Two Quebec groups representing the industry called on the province this week to allow pharmacists to distribute marijuana and the Canadian Pharmacists Association has also said pharmacies should play a leading role in the distribution of medical marijuana.

Jonathan Zaid, the executive director of patient group 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.”

Allowing for pharmacy distribution will not only broaden access to medical marijuana for patients and increase the potential for insurance to cover costs, but also reduce the stigma, he added.

A spokesman for Health Canada said that enabling cannabis for medical purposes to be sold in pharmacies would require support from the provinces and territories, provincial regulatory authorities and pharmacists.

Health Canada said recently in a consultation paper outlining its proposed regulations that it intends to work with the provinces and territories and the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities on options to control the sale and display of cannabis to youth, which could include “controlling them behind the counter at pharmacies.” Public consultation on Health Canada’s proposal ends Jan. 20.

“Health Canada is open to discussing other models of distribution, including pharmacy distribution, to enhance access to cannabis for medical purposes,” the government agency said in an emailed statement Friday.

“The implementation of the proposed Cannabis Act, if approved by Parliament, will improve the range of options available to many patients and individuals to access cannabis.”

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. These deals come amid concern that there will not be enough cannabis to meet demand when recreational use is legal this summer.

The chief executive of Jean Coutu, one of the country’s largest pharmacy chains, has said he is open to selling medical marijuana but would not lobby the federal government to do so.

Just Posted

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with hundreds of fans just a couple… Continue reading

Red Deer GoodLife no longer installing pool

Red Deer GoodLife Fitness members itching to swim will need to find… Continue reading

Hwy 2 detour Friday

Traffic detoured between Gaetz Avenue and Taylor Drive

Red Deer students are fighting subtle discrimination to help build a culture of tolerance

‘Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ marked at local high school

WATCH: Red Deerians can have a say about crime fighting

Municipality will poll citizens about policing priorities

Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

NEW YORK — The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of… Continue reading

Calgary remains interested in 2026 bid, but awaits word from feds, province

Calgary city council approved a slate of moves towards a possible bid… Continue reading

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to girl, 14, in Canada, police say

American authorities say a 14-year-old girl in Canada has been charged with… Continue reading

Comedian Mike MacDonald remembered for gut-busting mental health advocacy

If laughter is the best medicine, then standup veteran Mike MacDonald was… Continue reading

The Weeknd, Bruno Mars to headline Lollapalooza in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys will… Continue reading

No rest for the retired: Opioid crisis fills empty nests as grandparents step up

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — She is a Newfoundland woman who worked hard… Continue reading

Duclos defends gender-neutral language amid criticism from opposition

MONTREAL — Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended Service Canada’s decision to ask… Continue reading

Lawyer and negotiator: Thomas Molloy is new Saskatchewan lieutenant-governor

REGINA — Lawyer and negotiator Thomas Molloy has been sworn in as… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month