Although the signals from the big retail pharmacy chains are mixed, it would seem that where there is smoke there will eventually be fire.
Walgreens’ blog runs article on medical Cannabis – but they aren’t saying anything
Dahlia Sultan, Resident Pharmacist at Walgreens and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently published a blog on behalf of Walgreens that carried the self-explanatory title of “What is Medical Marijuana? Clarifying Clinical Cannabis”. The blog article immediately sparked speculation that Walgreens was considering dispensing medical Cannabis, however when approached for comment, Jim Cohn, spokesman for Walgreens said that the content of the blog is only informative and is aimed at answering customer questions around the topic. He pointed out that nowhere in the article does Walgreen take any particular stance on the issue, according to the article published by the Modern Medicine Network.
In spite of federal law prohibiting pharmacies from dispensing medical Cannabis, Cannabis oil, High CBD Hemp Oil or any other Cannabis products – and Walgreens’ apparent fence sitting position – there is a growing reaction to the mooted possibility of the giant retailers taking the field with both positive and negative feelings towards the potential development being expressed by commenting members of the public. Although dispensing by retail pharmacies presently remains illegal under federal law, many people seem to be of the opinion that pressure from the “big boys” may bring a relaxation of federal restrictions.
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Meanwhile, in Canada . . .
North of the border the story is different, with Canada’s giant retailer Loblaw saying that they are ready to dispense medical Cannabis as soon as they receive the nod from Ottawa. Having recently closed a 12 billion dollar takeover deal of the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy chain, Loblaw is looking forwards to being able to legally dispense all forms of medical Cannabis through their approximately 1700 retail pharmacy outlets. As reported in CBC Business News, Galen G. Weston, president and executive chairman of Loblaw recently spoke out about his company’s plans. According to Weston, Loblaw has the infrastructure and experience to be able to deal effectively with controlled substances, and feels that a better and more effective relationship between pharmacist and patient would be achieved.
Speaking to shareholders at the company’s AGM on the 5th of May, Weston is reported to have said that “It gives pharmacists the opportunity to work directly in real time with patients as opposed to doing it through the mail, working on their doses and making sure it actually has the therapeutic effect that it is intended to have.”
Canadian Pharmacists Association is driving the move towards change
The actual legwork of lobbying the government is not being done by Loblaw. Instead the Canadian Pharmacists Association is pushing for change with the rationale that a “lack of clinical oversight” in the use of medical Cannabis is cause for concern, and that pharmacies need to “play a front line role” in the dispensing of medical Cannabis.
What does this mean for the US?
What we do know is that while federal law dictates that medical Cannabis remains de facto illegal in spite of the changes at state level, a complicated tangle of red tape will continue to prevent steps in this direction from being made. Should changes to federal law be contemplated, a raft of associated legislation will have to be changed to accommodate big business – not least of which would be our banking laws.
At the moment the banks are in a precarious position regarding revenue from both medical and recreational Cannabis sales. Handling the finances of the burgeoning Cannabis industry is still being seen as laundering illegal drug money by the banking industry, keeping them from offering financial services to businesses, curtailing activity in the sector and severely disadvantaging the businesses already involved in the medical Cannabis industry.
It would be naïve to assume that, given the example to the North, the US retail moguls are not planning their entry to this market – in spite of the demure statements to the contrary made by Walgreens. That blog article speaks volumes.