News / Vancouver

B.C.-based London Drugs wants to sell medical pot in pharmacies

The company says it is exploring the possibility of selling medical marijuana in its 79 pharmacies, should the federal government legalize it.

London Drugs, which has a location on West Georgia and Granville in downtown Vancouver, confirmed Wednesday that it is exploring the possibility of selling medical marijuana, should the federal government legalize it.

Courtesy London Drugs

London Drugs, which has a location on West Georgia and Granville in downtown Vancouver, confirmed Wednesday that it is exploring the possibility of selling medical marijuana, should the federal government legalize it.

Medical marijuana users may soon be able to pick up some pot along with other prescription pills, at least if two of Canada’s largest drugstore chains have their way.

Richmond-based London Drugs says the company is exploring the possibility of selling medical marijuana in its 79 stores in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, should the federal government legalize it.

“London Drugs is not doing anything with medical marijuana today, but we anticipate that most likely the legislation will change to enable medical marijuana to be more accessible,” John Tse, vice-president of pharmacy for London Drugs, told Metro. “Should the legislation change, we’re going to prepare ourselves to be ready for that.”

The drugstore made its comments Wednesday after the Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources, reported that competitor Shoppers Drugs Mart has held meetings with medical marijuana producers and suppliers over the past year about the idea of selling legal pot through its pharmacies.

Shoppers Drug Mart would not confirm if it has met with medical marijuana producers. But in a statement Wednesday, the company said it believes pharmacies are best equipped to dispense medical marijuana.

“Pharmacists are medication experts and play a significant role in the dispensing and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” the company said in a statement. “We believe that dispensing medical marijuana through pharmacy, like other medications, is the safest option.”

If and when marijuana is legalized, Tse agreed it makes sense for pharmacists to dispense medical pot given their expertise in prescription drug management.

As experts in drug interactions, he said pharmacists could help determine if a patient who is taking other prescription medications could face any possible negative side effects if they also use medical marijuana.

Since drug stores already operate in a highly regulated environment, Tse said being able to dispense medical marijuana could also yield information about its use to help guide future regulatory changes.

But Tse acknowledged that there are still many problems to weed out first, from training pharmacists on how to dispense medical marijuana to finding more medical literature about the effects of pot.

“Right now, our pharmacists don’t have the knowledge and training,” he said. “To get that is going to take time because there is very little information out there.”

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, whose members include London Drugs and Rexall, also weighed in on the issue Wednesday, stating that it believes pharmacies are in the right position to manage the distribution and patient access to medical marijuana.

"Pharmacists are experts in medication and medication management," said spokesman Allan Austin. "Our members have the systems and processes in place to manage medications including monitoring, tracking usage, being aware of drug interactions."

Pharmacies aren’t the only businesses looking to profit from pot sales.

In December, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association announced that they were joining forces to advocate for legal marijuana to be sold through public and private liquor stores as early as this Christmas.

With files from The Canadian Press.