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CPhA takes official stance on cannabis

August 30, 2017

On July 1, 2018, the production, distribution, sale, and possession of cannabis for recreational use will be legalized in Canada. Provincial governments and health care organizations across the country have expressed various concerns about the proposed legislation.

ACP Council made its position clear in April, passing a motion to support policies that prohibit the sale of cannabis for recreational use from pharmacies. Council indicated concerns about the health implications of using cannabis recreationally, particularly amongst individuals younger than 25.

Council also passed a motion recommending that distribution sites for non-medical cannabis must not be permitted to use terms such as “dispensary” or pharmacy-related symbols such as the green cross, which could lead the public to believe the distribution site is a pharmacy or has professional oversight from pharmacy practitioners.

As for the possibility of pharmacists being included in the management and distribution of medical cannabis, ACP believes more research is required.

“Currently, medical cannabis is not subject to the same controls and standardization required of prescription drugs dispensed from pharmacies,” said Greg Eberhart, ACP Registrar. “Once we can assure that cannabis produced for medical purposes has been standardized with quality controls that are at least as consistent as those for prescription drugs, and once better evidence is available about its efficacy to support pharmacists and other health professionals to make more informed decisions and provide more consistent advice about its proper use, then and only then should cannabis for medical use be considered for distribution through Alberta pharmacies.”

Now, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) is weighing in on the issue. The CPhA presented a brief to the Standing Committee on Health (HESA) with recommendations regarding the legalization of cannabis.

The brief included a list of six recommendations to HESA that the association believes should be part of the legislative framework when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. The recommendations were developed, in part, due to a growing concern among pharmacists across Canada about the lack of clinical oversight in the distribution of medical cannabis. The CPhA recommends the federal government to:

  • Ensure a distinction between recreational and medical cannabis.
  • Enhance and support increased research into medical cannabis to support safer, more effective prescribing and methods of administration, e.g. non-smokeable products.
  • Restrict the use of terms such as ‘dispensary’ or pharmacy-related symbols such as a green cross for the recreational distribution of cannabis.
  • Support and include pharmacists in the management and distribution of medical cannabis.
  • Establish pricing for recreational cannabis that would not encourage patient diversion from the medical cannabis stream.
  • Regulate recreational cannabis distribution through the lens of health promotion.

The CPhA believes pharmacists have a unique perspective on the legalization of cannabis and is asking the federal government not to overlook how the legislation could impact patients who rely on the medical cannabis system.

Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, passed 2nd reading in the House of Commons on June 8. HESA is now reviewing the legislation and is expected to conduct hearings beginning in September.