A short article with three big reasons why I think recreational cannabis will end up in Pharmacists' hands.
Please note that just because my opinion is that recreational cannabis will be sold via pharmacies, does not mean that I endorse it.
First things first, some context. The federal government's plans to legalize recreational use of cannabis continue to target July 2018 as the legalization date. Source: www.cbc.ca/news/politics/finance-ministers-pot-legalization-cameron-frieson-1.4167642
It is up to the individual provinces to implement their vision of legal recreational cannabis, e.g. legal age limit, possession amount, and also where it will be sold. Many ideas have been presented, including sale of cannabis though LCBO, government operated retail stores, licenced private retail stores, and pharmacies.
Here are a few reasons why I think pharmacies will be among the distributors.
Reason #1 - Labour Negotiations and Infrastructure
LCBO workers are unionized and can threaten to strike. Ontario government only recently struck a deal with the workers. Source: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/lcbo-strike-canada-day-1.4177650
The government does not seem to enjoy labour negotiations process (see the labour dispute between Ontario and its doctors). The recent deal with Ontario Public Service Employees Union workers could be classified as an exception, as even that union's president thought there would be more confrontation. Source: globalnews.ca/news/3520556/ontario-government-offers-public-servants-contract-extensions-7-5-raises/
If LCBO has both the liquor and recreational cannabis industries in its hands, you can imagine labour negotiations will only become even more complicated. The same labour negotiations issues would apply to a wholly government-owned retail store. Certainly, the government could still allow the LCBO to distribute cannabis, but I believe it's not in their best interests.
Pharmacists (in retail/community settings) are not unionized and cannot strike. The risk of a shutdown of the cannabis distribution system is almost zero. The government has no obligation to negotiate labour terms.
Similarly, government-owned retail stores is probably not feasible for the next 1-2 years, as the timelines are tight (need to find and lease property).
Reason #2 - Licenced Producers (LPs) Would Prefer Pharmacies
Although LP's may have little to no input on the legalization process (Source: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/omar-khan-pot-legalization-1.4177837), they would still prefer their products sold via pharmacies. Why? There just happen to be over 4,000 pharmacies in Ontario (napra.ca/pages/practice_resources/national_statistics.aspx?id=2104), translating to several thousand stores potentially carrying their products. There are only about 654 LCBO stores in Ontario (www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/corporate-pages/about/media-centre/quick-facts.html#.WVFFaOvyt6t).
Reason #3 - Patient Preference
Deloitte completed a study about public opinions of Canadians on recreational cannabis (www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/Analytics/ca-en-analytics-DELOITTE%20Recreational%20Marijuana%20POV%20-%20ENGLISH%20FINAL_AODA.pdf) and 17% of the population surveyed (in Canada) indicated some willingness to try recreational cannabis if it were legalized. Such a level of curiosity will ultimately spark patients to ask questions, and drug questions typically get answered by health care professionals (and not LCBO workers). Pharmacists have already expressed a general support for distribution of medical cannabis, and patients may naturally assume that Pharmacists would support recreational cannabis distribution as well. Patients already know that pharmacists carry numerous potentially dangerous medications as well.
Those are the three reasons why I think pharmacies will be one of the distributors of recreational cannabis. I will follow up this article with the big reasons recreational cannabis WILL NOT be in pharmacies. Stay tuned for a future opinion piece. As always, please leave your comments below, or message me directly.