It’s still unclear how Canada’s medical landscape will look like once the country legalizes cannabis by the end of summer. Currently, there are no third parties involved in dispensing it—patients who use medicinal marijuana can either grow it themselves or order it through a licensed producer (LP).
But that could all change if medical cannabis is made available through pharmacies. The Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) insists they support that move and are ready for it.
Pharmacists Assist With Cannabis Education
Philip Emberley, director of practice advancement and research with the CPhA, says pharmacists are already being asked questions by patients who want to learn more about how cannabis can be used for the conditions they’re treating. “We’re already playing a role in educating the public,” he says. “Especially those who are seeking to have this medication to help their illness.”
Philip says patients’ skepticism towards cannabis has decreased in the last 10 years as more evidence emerges on its effectiveness in helping treat various conditions. He credits this shift to the changes made by Health Canada, which in recent years has allowed home growing for those who are licensed.
In response to the impending changes to cannabis in Canada, CPhA recently launched a medical marijuana continuing education program for pharmacists.
“Pharmacists are continually inundated on new medicines they need to pick up quickly, on what the role is and how they work, and this is no different,” says Philip. “Societally, there will be more people asking questions so pharmacists feel the need to enhance their knowledge.”
Pharmacists Have Up-To-Date Clinical Information on Cannabis
The CPhA worked with clinical experts to gain information that’s subjective and based on the best available evidence. Pharmacists aren’t mandated to review the educational material on medical cannabis, but Philip says that most want to be able to confidently answer questions.
Pharmacists often have to learn about new forms of medicines with unique parameters, so educating them on medical marijuana won’t be any different. “This kind of thing happens fairly regularly in the world of pharmacy,” says Philip.
Pharmacies Can Offer a Safe Supply of Medicinal Marijuana
CPhA has put forth its position on medicinal marijuana to Health Canada, stating it wants to be a source when dispensing the drug. There are over 9,000 pharmacies across Canada, which would make access to medical marijuana easier for patients.
“When you’re dealing with licensed producers, it’s very different,” says Philip. “There’s a limited number of producers; you may be relying on distribution channels that are sensitive and may break down eventually, unlike pharmacies, which are ubiquitous.”
The government has yet to formally announce whether pharmacies will be used as an outlet for medical marijuana.