Last week we saw the Canadian Pharmacy Association weigh in on the future of medicinal cannabis distribution in Canada. They want in now, saying they should be the "front line" in dispensing the drug.
The association pointed out that pharmacisits are "medication experts" and that they have concerns over the lack of "clinical oversight." They have information about drug interactions and contraindications, and could spot potentially addictive behaviour. It is an interesting reversal from their earlier position on medicinal cannabis, so let's try to understand why.
There are approximately 50,000 licensed medicinal cannabis patients in Canada today, and that number is growing. It is estimated that by 2024, over 430,000 cannabis patients will be licensed in Canada.
It's pretty easy to see this is a healthy new line of business for the pharmacies to go after. Good old-fashioned greed is a lot easier to understand than "concerns over clinical oversight."
At $12 a gram and 150 grams per month, that currently represents a healthy $90-million market. By 2024, that grows to approximately $750 million. Add even the smallest dispensing fee and it's pretty easy to see this is a healthy new line of business for the pharmacies to go after. Good old-fashioned greed is a lot easier to understand than "concerns over clinical oversight."
After the pharmacy association released their new position, the association representing Canada's licensed medicinal cannabis producers, the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association (CMCIA) commented on the position, saying that patients should have "choice." Most notable among their comments was the following:
"Pharmacists were given the option of participating in the distribution model when Health Canada's medical marijuana regulations were introduced in 2013. But they shied away, citing insufficient evidence of the drug's therapeutic effects."
This argument of "we were here first" might have worked on the playground back in elementary school, but it sounds a bit hypocritical coming from the group fighting to shut down dispensaries and smaller producers who have been licensed since 2001 under Health Canada's old MMAR regulations. Again, it's important to ask why. Why would a manufacturer care who sells their product?
Medicinal cannabis is the only product I know that is currently being sold directly to consumers by manufacturers, through mail order, with a healthy 500 to 1,000 per cent markup along the way. Again, some good old-fashioned greed, easier to understand than "giving patients choices."
The truth is, patients already have choices because of the Allard decision which again re-affirmed patients rights to grow their own medicinal cannabis. MMAR licensed patients continue to be protected under the federal courts interim injunction.
As we begin the process toward legal adult use cannabis, these cannabis wars will continue because the recreational market is much, much bigger, estimated at $5 to $7 billion annually. As we continue along this path, it's always important to ask why, and to consider patient rights above industry concerns.
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